November 28, 2007 / 1:47 PM / 11 years ago

Vancouver turns to native legends for mascots

SURREY, British Columbia (Reuters) - Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver used animals of Canada’s Pacific Coast — both real and imaginary — as inspiration for the three official Games mascots unveiled on Tuesday.

Vancouver 2010 Olympic Mascots, Quatchi (C), a sasquatch, Miga (L), a sea bear and Sumi, an animal spirit are unveiled in Surrey, British Columbia, November 27, 2007. The Mascots were inspired by local Aboriginal mythological creatures. REUTERS/Lyle Stafford

The mascots Miga, Quatchi and Sumi were unveiled in an elaborate ceremony before an audience of school children, a key market for merchandise sales that organizers of the Vancouver Games hope will generate C$46 million in royalties.

The mascots — or “critters” as their designers call them — incorporate elements from real animals such as killer whales and coastal bears with those of mythical beings such as the sasquatch and the thunderbird of Indian legend.

“We didn’t really look at other (Olympic) mascots. We just wanted something that would represent Canadians,” said Vicki Wong, one of the designers.

Organizers of the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing are using five mascots, while other Olympics have traditionally had just one or two. The 1972 Olympics in Munich were the first to have an official mascot.

The Vancouver Organizing Committee (VANOC) decided to go with three after test-marketing a variety of designs with groups across Canada, and making sure the names could be pronounced and marketed in languages around the world.

“I don’t think there is really a magic number,” VANOC Chief Executive John Furlong said.

Miga is combination of an orca, or killer whale, which is common along Canada’s Pacific coast, and a “spirit bear” — a name used to describe a white-furred Kermode bear, a normally brown-colored animal found in the coastal wilderness.

Quatchi is modeled on the mythical sasquatch, also known as bigfoot, a large furry creature that is said to live in the forests of the Pacific Coast. Organizers describe him as having a love for ice hockey, the most popular sport in Canada.

Sumi combines elements of the orca and the hawk-like thunderbird that are popular in the stories of many native cultures along the coast. Sumi will help publicize the Paralympic events.

The mascots will also have a minor “sidekick” character, Mukmuk, who is modeled on the rare, endangered marmots found on Vancouver Island.

An informal and unscientific poll of some of the 800 schoolkids who attended the event indicated Miga was the most popular.

Reporting, Allan Dowd; Editing by Rob Wilson

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