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Chris Chase

Evaluating the 11 candidates for Russia's 2014 Olympic mascot

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On Monday, three years from the start of the first Winter Olympics to ever be held in Russia, organizers announced the 11 characters that could become the mascot of the Sochi Games. There's a little something for everyone, from the Christmas lover to the follower of heliocentrism to fans of anthropomorphic animals adept at winter sports.

Russians will be able to vote for their favorite via text message with the winner getting announced at the end of the month. Fourth-Place Medal ranked the 11 candidates:

11. Santa Claus

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This mascot is based on the beloved Russian children's literary character Papa Sergei, who is said to have formed during a Siberian blizzard and invented hockey.

I'm kidding. That's Santa. It would make more sense if the mascot was someone other than the guy who delivers gifts to good boys and girls on Christmas morning, but here we are. How would this work? Is Rudolph going to light the cauldron? Will the elves enter the bobseld competition under the North Pole flag? Why Kris Kringle and not, say, the tooth fairy? Is she more of a Summer Olympics fan? And if we're going to go with people as mascots, why not just make it Gorbachev or Baryshnikov or Ivan Drago? Verdict: Nyet

10. Fire Boy

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Sure to win the crucial vote of the pyromaniac set (they're this year's soccer moms!), Fire Boy has flames for hair and comes from a planet that's always hot. (No, not earth, Al Gore.) His bio says he likes to play hockey, which should lead to some pretty unsafe ice conditions at the Games. Verdict: Nyet

9. Dolphin

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Nothing says "international showcase of winter athletes" like a warm-blooded aquatic mammal wearing skis. Verdict: Nyet

8. Sun

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This would be like if London's mascots for the 2012 Summer Games were a bunch of raindrops and windstorms. (Actually, that still might be an improvement over these guys.) Sun, no matter how cute the pigtails, is the nemesis of a Winter Olympics. You know what I'm talking about, Vancouver. Verdict: Nyet

7. Bullfinch

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Looks like Angry Birds is popular in Russia too. Verdict: Nyet

6. Leopard

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He's one of those cool cats, like Tony the Tiger or Chester Cheetah. Regular skis are for squares and adults. Only hepcats can grind on the boards, brah. On another note, I'm sort of surprised they didn't give him a Shaun White-esque mop of red hair. Verdict: Nyet

5. Bunny

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This animal isn't wearing a pastel eton, so it's safe to assume it isn't the Easter bunny. (Oh, Santa is going to be insufferable about this at their annual convention.) As such, it's just a rabbit not wearing any clothes. Pretty sure that sort of thing will get you kicked out of the Olympic Village. Verdict: Nyet

4. Brown Bear

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(see No. 3)

3. Polar Bear

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As my pal Maggie points out, the Bears, while cute, could be in danger of splitting the vote, a la Bette Davis and Anne Baxter in the 1950 race for Best Actress at the Academy Awards. (Why are we bringing up an ancient movie, you ask? Because even 61 years later, the black and white "All About Eve" is still more exciting than these mascots.) Verdict: Double nyet

2. Snowflake

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Finally, a mascot that makes sense. Russia says there were 25,000 entries into the contest, which theoretically means that it took 24,998 sketches to get to Snowflake. It says she flew to Earth on an icy comet and likes to dance, particularly on the skating rink. Welcome to Earth, Snowflake. Just be aware that the Chinese judge is probably going to lowball you on your free skate. Verdict: Da

1. Matryoshka

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These four mascots are based on the Russian nesting dolls of the same name. Each boast individual traits (strong, nimble, goal-seeking and intelligent -- just like I claim to be on my resume.) From a marketing standpoint, these are perfect. They capture a well-known Russian custom and have four different characters to put on Olympic swag. More is more in marketing, after all.

If there's any logic going into the choice of mascots, the matryoshka will be the landslide winners, which means you should prepare yourself for Fire Boy in 2014.

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