Every Olympic Games has a mascot or several—don’t even get us started on the terrifying ones from London 2012. The Sochi 214 Winter Olympics are no exception.
However, many in the sports world are feeling a strange sense of déjà vu when they see one of them. And one man, the creator of the Misha mascot for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, is feeling like a lawsuit.
The Russian public voted just a few days ago for their favorite mascots, using a text and/or phone format similar to American Idol. There were nine choices, each relevant to Russia.
Around one million people in the country participated, choosing a snowboarding snow leopard, a white bunny rabbit, and a polar bear.
However, many Russians remember another Olympic polar bear mascot: Misha. No one remembers Misha better than his creator, Viktor Chizhikov. In an interview with Russian radio station Ekho Moskvy, Chizhikov stated, “This polar bear, everything is taken from mine, the eyes, nose, mouth, smile. I don’t like being robbed.” Indeed, while the bears are obviously a different color and came from different eras, the stance and facial expression are strikingly similar.
Chizhikov isn’t the only one crying foul over the Olympic mascot. The United Russia political party also has a polar bear symbol that they claim is dangerously close to the Sochi mascot.
24,000 choices were whittled down to the nine presented to Russian voters, so it is amazing that the one choice that may not be ethically available made the cut. Many Russians felt unhappy with all of the choices they were given, with major news channels in the area calling the selection ‘mediocre’. However, these mascots seem very appropriate for the 2012 Sochi Olympics and certainly no worse than many we have seen in the past. That is, if they all can legally be used with out a logo trademark infringement, which remains to be seen.
This is not the only Olympic Games to have trouble with logo design and branding this week—the London 2012 games logo is being protested by the Iranian government for purported and has been a sore spot for aesthetic reasons with residents of the UK.
Mascot design is an important part of any sporting team or event, giving players and fans a personality to rally around. The Olympic Games are supposed to be a symbol of international and national goodwill and sportsmanship, so it is disappointing to see their image tarnished by squabbling over fine points. Hopefully a compromise can be worked out that leaves the games with good mascots and no one with hard feelings.