Few countries have a mascot for London this summer – and now that Israel’s Baby Bamba has been withdrawn, they will be even thinner on the ground
Sad days in the state of Israel. Baby Bamba, a peanut-shaped toddler dressed in a blue nappy, has been withdrawn as the country’s Olympic mascot after critics complained that it was too similar to the logo of a popular children’s snack. Sources suggest that Bamba will not be replaced and the Israeli team will go into competition in London mascotless.
The rumpus is a serious blow for Olympic team mascots, which would have been thin on the ground in any case at this summer’s games. Mascots are not obligatory, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) explains, which means that Britain, Australia, South Africa, Serbia and Russia are among the relatively few teams so far to have gone public with their plans. Pride, a lion, represents Team GB, while Australia has its boxing kangaroo, which was notoriously ejected from the Vancouver winter Olympics after the IOC claimed it was too commercial (the IOC later backtracked). As in previous games, Russia is likely to be represented by the Cheburashka, a tiny, big-eared, humanoid bear-cub who turns white for winter games.
Serbia, meanwhile, has crowdsourced its hoodoo. Graphic designer Ivan Arandjelovic beat off rivals with a little fellow that looks like a fluffy white chick, but is apparently a, um, vulture. An endangered one, mind. In Serbia, there are only 60 griffon vultures left.
Last but not least, South Africa, which, like Serbia, has had a competition to find a mascot, but hasn’t yet made a final decision. The choice is currently between six animals, including a dog, a rhino and a serval. Our money’s on rhino Ubhejani.
Making up the numbers are the tournament mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville, two one-eyed silver spikes that supposedly represent drops of steel from the Olympic stadium framework. They don’t quite have the cuddly charm of the first official tournament mascot, Waldi –a multicoloured dachshund who graced the 1972 Munich games. Or even Schuss, the unofficial totem of the 1968 winter games in Grenoble, who looked like a man who had had his arms chopped off and then been superglued to a pair of skis.
Frankly, I prefer Baby Bamba.
from Patrick Kingsley