Snow leopard heads trio of Sochi 2014 mascots

Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:59pm EST

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin got his wish when a snow leopard, polar bear and hare were chosen as the official mascots of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday.
Putin, who was largely responsible for Sochi’s successful bid to host the 2014 Games, said earlier in the day that a snow leopard would be his “symbolic choice.”

The snow leopard received 28 percent of the votes during a live broadcast on Russia’s main Channel One, followed by the polar bear in second place with 18 percent and the hare in third (16 percent).

“There are three mascots for the Olympic Winter Games, representing the three places on the Olympic podium,” 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.”

Television viewers voted for the mascots from a pool of 10 candidates including a Russian bear and Grandfather Frost (Russian Santa Claus) by sending text messages or by calling the studio.

The characters were shortlisted by the organizers from more than 24,000 ideas that were submitted during a nationwide contest.

Earlier on Saturday, Putin told students during his visit to Sochi: “(The snow) leopard is a strong, powerful, fast and beautiful animal.

“Leopard species had been destroyed around here but now they are being regenerated. If the Olympic project, at least in some way, should help the local environment, then it (picking a leopard) would be symbolic.”

(Reporting by Gennady Fyodorov; Editing by Stephen Wood)

Snow leopards and the art of Olympic environmental diplomacy

The Reuters global sports blog

June 23rd, 2009

Posted by: Karolos Grohmann There is an art in dealing with environmental issues when preparing to host Olympic Games.Athens for example, while preparing to host the 2004 Olympics, decided to construct the rowing venue inside a protected nature reserve and just a few hundred metres from the historic site of the ancient battle of Marathon. Environmental groups were up in arms for years before organisers said while they would build the venue there they would also save a rare fish (which looked more like a frog) living in the tiny creeks of the nature reserve. The rowing centre was built and after the Games it was never used again because of environmental restrictions.Russian organisers of the 2014 Winter Olympics are no different.Sochi had planned to construct the bobsled, luge and skeleton venue and a mountain Olympic village in a part of the Krasnaya Polyana mountains bordering a Unesco World Heritage Site, including the Caucasus State Biosphere Nature Reserve.Environmentalists claimed the construction would irreparably damage the fragile natural balance of the area. After much deliberation and mounting pressure, including from the United Nations Environmental Programme, it was decided that the venues had to be moved before more concerns about the impact of the Games in the area started to surface.While what organisers themselves have called “maybe the biggest construction site in the world” is going ahead across the wider Sochi area, they have also highlighted their decision to reintroduce the snow leopard, a species that had been extinct for many decades in the region.An elaborate process of taking the same species of snow leopard from Turkmenistan, breeding it and then introducing the cubs in the mountains near Sochi is under way under the personal attention of the IOC’s chief inspector for Sochi, Jean-Claude Killy.It does make you wonder. If every organising committee of Olympic Games showed that much attention to environmental detail for their overall Games plan, instead of merely responding to the outcry of environmental groups, would there ever be any complaints from nature lovers?There’d certainly be a lot more wildlife.