They're here! The London 2012 Olympics organizing committee has unveiled not one, but two Olympic Mascots -- Wenlock and Mandeville:
After 18 months, 40 focus groups and a secret operation worthy of MI5, London 2012 on Wednesday finally revealed the mascots that will help define the capital’s Olympic experience, and just as importantly help pay for it.
The pair are based on a short story by children's author Michael Morpurgo that tells how they were fashioned from droplets of the steel used to build the Olympic stadium. They will be crucial in raising funds and spreading messages about the games.
Wenlock, named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock that helped inspire Pierre de Coubertin to launch the modern Olympics, and Mandeville, inspired by the Buckinghamshire town of Stoke Mandeville, where the Paralympics were founded, will become very familiar in the next two years. The chairman of the London organising committee of the Olympic games (Locog), Lord Coe, said the mascots were aimed squarely at children and designed with the digital age in mind. He said they had the most positive reaction in workshops to road test them.
Among the designs rejected at the start of an open pitch process were anthropomorphic pigeons, an animated tea pot and a Big Ben with arms and legs.
Children will be encouraged to interact with the characters, inviting them via Facebook, Twitter and the web to visit their school...
Despite the negative media reaction, organizers say the mascots will be good at reaching their target audience: children -- and their parent's pocketbooks:
With a metallic finish, a single large eye made out of a camera lens, a London taxi light on their heads and the Olympic rings represented as friendship bracelets on their wrists, they resemble characters dreamed up for a Pixar animation.
But London 2012 organisers, for whom the launch of the mascots marks the start of a crucial period in which the games will become public property, pointed to the delighted reaction of a hall full of primary school children at today's launch as evidence that they would connect with their target audience.
"They remind you of aliens, which is really weird and cool," said 10-year-old Ali. "It reminds you of the Olympics, which is worldwide so it's something you'll want to remember forever," added 11-year-old Zanyab as they cavorted with life-size mascots for the cameras.
Children will be encouraged to interact with the characters, inviting them via Facebook, Twitter and the web to visit their school and, said Coe, inspiring them to take up different sports.
The pair were introduced in an animated film that followed their story from the Bolton steelworks where the frame of the Olympic stadium was made. They will become a range of up to 30 cuddly toys, including versions based on celebrities and sports stars, as well as adorning badges, T-shirts, mugs and more.
So, what do you think? Great; good; meh; bad; egads?