Welcome to part one in our three-part series looking back at the mascots of the Olympic Games! The origins of Olympic mascots are steeped within a rich heritage with the name ‘mascot’ hailing from the South of France and also serving as the name of a popular opera in the nineteenth century, according to the Olympic Museum Head of Programming Anne Chevalley. As it is common to see a mascot in the United States for sports teams and schools, it is only natural to see a mascot — providing good fortune to people from all walks of life — at the Olympic Games. Join us on this throwback as we uncover trivia behind the colorful dachshunds, tigers, bears, snowmen (yes, you read that right!), and many more mascots that have joined us in celebrating the Winter and Summer Olympics throughout the decades!
Schuss (1968 Winter Olympics, Grenoble)
While Schuss is technically an unofficial mascot, we would be remiss not to include this stylized skier from the 1968 Winter Olympics in Grenoble as a foreshadowing of the unique characters to come in the Games.
Waldi (1972 Summer Olympics, Munich)
The first official mascot in the 1972 Summer Olympics was Waldi, a dachshund dog. Attendees at the Munich Games Organising Committee Christmas party were given crayons, sheets of paper, and modeling clay to create their own mascot designs. While it is not known how many animals or characters were thought up during that party, the dachshund was the perfect choice as the popular pup is noted for its agility, endurance, and tenacity. Born on December 15, 1969, Waldi had a light blue head and tail with a striped body featuring three of the six Olympic colors. And for those wondering, he also had a real-life counterpart — a dachshund named Cherie von Birkenhof.
Amik (1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal)
Created by Guy St-Arnaud, Yvon Laroche, and Pierre-Yves Pelletier for the 1976 Summer Olympics, Amik means “beaver” in Algonquin. Beavers have a significant role in Canadian culture and are noted for their patience and hard work. Amik wore a red strip with the Montreal Games logo, meant to symbolize the ribbon traditionally used for the winners’ medals.
Schneemann (1976 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck)
Who better to represent the first Winter Games than a snowman? Created by Walter Pötsch, Schneemann (which translates to “snowman” in German) wore a red Tyrolean hat typical of the Innsbruck region. Innsbruck had previously hosted the 1964 Games where there was a significant lack of snow, but Schneemann proved to be more than just a mascot. He was a good luck charm, as plenty of snow fell during the 1976 Winter Olympics.
Misha (1980 Summer Olympics, Moscow)
Created by popular children’s book illustrator Victor Chizhikov, Misha (full name: Mikhail Potapych Toptygin) was a bear cub that represented the 1980 Summer Olympics. A popular animal in Russia that appears in stories and songs, Misha proudly wore a striped belt around his waist made up of the Olympic rings five colors. The belt buckle itself is composed of the five golden rings.
Roni (1980 Winter Olympics, Lake Placid)
Inspired by Lake Placid’s then-living mascot — a raccoon named Rocky — Roni was created by Don Moss at Capital Sports for the 1980 Winter Olympics. His name means “raccoon” in Iroquoian and was chosen by Lake Placid school children. More than just honoring his predecessor, raccoons are also natives to the Adirondacks region and Roni himself paid tribute to the sunglasses and hats worn by competing athletes with the black and white mask around his eyes.
Sam (1984 Summer Olympics, Los Angeles)
For the 1984 Summer Olympics Sam, an eagle created by C. Robert Moore at Walt Disney Productions, was the natural mascot choice to symbolize the United States. Filled with optimism for the spirit of the games, Sam was friendly and cheerful, clad in a hat in the design of the American flag.
Vučko (1984 Winter Olympics, Saravejo)
Never mind all the fables you’ve heard about “the big bad wolf” — they are all totally irrelevant when it comes to Vučko. Created by Slovenian painter Jože Trobec for the 1984 Winter Olympics, Vučko was a friendly wolf who symbolized winter and the forests of the Dinaric Alps region, but also courage and strength. Other noteworthy runner-ups alongside Vučko included a snowball, mountain goat, weasel, lamb, and hedgehog.
Hidy and Howdy (1988 Winter Olympics, Calgary)
Historic for being the first mascot couple, Hidy and Howdy were brother and sister polar bears with names representative of Calgary’s hospitality. Created by Shelia Scott at Great Scott Productions, this polar bear pairing symbolized winter and the Arctic regions in the north of the American continent. Hidy and Howdy wore “Western” style cowboy hats and ensembles as they cheered on athletes during the 1988 Winter Olympics.
Hodori (1988 Summer Olympics, Seoul)
Created by Kim Hyun, who also created the emblem for the Asian Games in 1986, Hodori was a tiger cub that paid tribute to the tiger’s frequent appearances in Korean art as well as the animal’s characteristics, which are associated with nobility and bravery. In his name, “Ho” means tiger in Korean and “Dori” is a masculine diminutive. Hodori had a positive spirit and wore the Olympic rings around his neck, along with the sangmo, a traditional Korean hat, upon his head.