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)