Snow Leopard Wins Vote for 2014 Winter Olympics Mascot
A snow-boarding snow leopard took home the gold, winning a vote to be one of three official mascots of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The winner was announced live on Russian TV over the weekend.
The snow leopard joins other top vote-getters, a scarf-wearing polar bear and a rabbit, as the top symbols of the Games. All three of the cartoon characters will be featured on tourist souvenirs.
In the search for the three mascots, representing the Gold, Silver and Bronze tiers of winners at the Games, 10 candidates were chosen out of some 24,000 ideas submitted, reports Reuters. Russian TV viewers called or texted in their favorite choice.
Not everyone is happy with the outcome, however. Some think that the leopard got an unfair boost when Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that a snow leopard would be his "symbolic choice," reports news outlet AFP.
A prominent Russian political analyst, Dmitry Oreshkin, went so far as to tell the Moscow Echo radio that it was possible that the telephone system had been rigged to engineer the desired result, reports AFP.
"Just after Vladimir Putin showed his sympathy for the leopard, its votes climbed sharply," Oreshkin said.
Also, the designer of the bear mascot for the 1980 Moscow Olympics complained that the Sochi polar bear was a blatant copy of his own work.
"This polar bear, everything is taken from mine, the eyes, nose, mouth, smile. I don't like being robbed," Viktor Chizhikov told Moscow Echo.
The Sochi 2014 chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said in a statement, "All top-three characters will become the Olympic Winter Games mascots. The mascots are the choice of our whole country and will remain in the history of the Olympic movement."
With a population of 400,000, Sochi is a popular resort city on Russia's Black Sea coast. The 2014 Olympic Winter Games will be the first time that the Russian Federation will have hosted the Winter Games; the Soviet Union hosted the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow.
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