Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Olympics of Symbolism (8/8/08)

The Olympics are here! And as we celebrate the Games of the current Olympiad, our thoughts turn to -- no, not to steroids and genetic testing, or the ways in which protesters will be relegated to the far reaches of Beijing. No, we're not getting nostalgic for the events of yesteryear: croquet, golf, and Jeu de Paume (Jeu de what?). We're not even thinking of how Beijing's air has the consistency of pea soup (or perhaps birds' nest soup this year), though Chinese officials are doing their darnedest to keep competitors from horking up a lung.

No, as the Games begin, we like to concentrate on the symbols that identify the Olympics: icons like the
flag, whose rings represent the five continents of the world and the colors found on every flag. Or the Torch Relay -- devised by Hitler's propagandists, but which culminates in the lighting ceremony that can choke up even the hardest-hearted cynic. American television viewers associate Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream" with the Games, though in recent years, that musical theme has been replaced by John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." Most of all, we love the mascots of the Games -- cuddly creatures like Waldi (who admonished other dachshunds against urinating on the Olympic flagpole) or Calgary's lovable polar bears Hidy and Howdy -- or even Los Angeles' Sam, who fended off accusations that he looked more like a chicken than a bald eagle. Perhaps the least-loved mascot was Atlanta's Izzy, if only because no one was really sure what the hell he (she? it?) was.

The final verdict on
this year's Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini is anyone's guess, but we're pretty sure that they'll end up being less creepy than Turin's Neve and Gliz -- an anthropomorphized snowball and ice cube with unnervingly cheerful expressions.

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