Olympic mascots are a funny thing. . . . well, sometimes. Most of the time, they're created on the premise that kids are going to need something to make the Olympic movement seem warm and fuzzy. They're also great merchandising tools, and if there's one thing the International Olympic Committee understands above all else, it's a dollar or a billion of them. Ever since the introduction of the first Olympics mascot, we've grown accustomed to ever increasing levels of unbearably cute in said huggable, usually furry ambassadors of the Games. Some of them you remember fondly. Others, you'd rather the organizers had spent their money instead on a better ticketing program or making a T-shirt more affordable. Here is a rundown of the best and worst of the Summer Olympics mascots. You're welcome, world.
1972 Munich -- Waldi, the Dachshund
It's a little mean to come down on the first real Olympics mascot, especially since it's a conventional-looking dog (and really, who doesn't like dogs?). Also, it was a mascot for an Olympics that featured the darkest moment in the Games' history. We'll give the Germans this: As much as we resent their never-ending dominance at the Olympics (and everything else), you've got to love the efficient, stylized design that steadfastly refused to use the Olympic colors.
1976 Montreal -- Amik the beaver
Canada's first Olympics ever and what did the organizers choose? A beaver. Fine, it's definitely a Canadian animal. Still, Amik represents the Montreal Olympics in every way possible: It's bloated, uninspired and practically yells out being afraid of what people think. Amik was definitely just an easy, let's-not-give-this-any-thought-at-all choice. Which, on further reflection, falls in line with we'll-overspend-to-whatever-it-takes-to-host-these-Games mentality that still makes Montrealers wince today.
1980 Moscow -- Misha the Bear
The best Summer Olympics mascot that no decadent capitalists ever saw. This is pretty much perfect: a cuddly looking bear with a huge smile that no kid could ever resist buying. Of course, the bear is synonymous with Russia, so this was round three in the Olympics' Battle of the National Stereotyping.
1984 Los Angeles -- Sam The Eagle
It seems fitting that Disney would design the mascot for the most corporate-minded Olympics ever. This was also the dawn of the more "childish" era of Olympic mascots, which was fitting for a Games where the Soviet bloc boycott meant one really had to suspend disbelief to think America wasn't going to dominate the podium. Or be in charge of promotions for McDonald's.
1988 Seoul -- Hodori the Tiger
Everyone loves tigers. They're cool-looking and kill prey easily. There's nothing remotely offensive and weird about Hodori (and his seldom-seen girlfriend Hosuni), other than the fact he looks like he was designed by Simpsons' animators (not far from the truth) and has a really strange rhythmic gymnastics thingy on his head. The first non-mega boycotted Olympics since 1976 was memorable for a lot of reasons, some which didn't even involve 'roided-out sprinters (a painful reminder to Canadians who celebrated Ben Johnson's record run in the 100 meters). The mascot, though, left no imprint.
1992 Barcelona -- Cobi the Dog
Again with the dogs! Based on a Catalan Sheepdog, Cobi was a huge middle finger to the cutesy mascots of the previous two Games. Designed in Cubist style (inspired by Picasso!), he somehow got into commercials for Coke and had his own TV series. Cobi was everywhere for awhile. He was making a lot of Spanish folks very rich. Maybe they should roll him out again, eh?
1996 Atlanta -- Izzy, the... we still don't know
The first computer-generated mascot ever has a lot in common with Windows: It crashed and burned often. Possibly the worst mascot in Olympics history, Izzy is kind of a microcosm of what went wrong at the Atlanta Olympics: There's nothing remotely meaningful about him and it's insanely obvious he's a tool to make money. His eyes make him look like he's on drugs, he's scary looking and no adult in their right mind would dare take a picture with him. He was even nicknamed "Sperm in Sneakers." Epic fail.
2000 Sydney -- Olly, a kookaburra, Syd, a platypus and Millie, an echidna
We all know Australia is a world onto itself, and the animals are no different (what the hell is a Kookaburra?). Still, you'd be hard-pressed to hate these adorable looking chazwallers, the charming and not least bit overbearing animals they are. Australia kind of schooled everyone with its mascots. Just like they school Canada in how they support their Olympians and national soccer teams, or how they school America with its swimmers. Right up there with Misha as one of the best Olympic mascots.
2004 Athens -- Athena and Phevos, two dolls from an ancient archeological site in Greece
European Olympic mascots tend to eschew the super-childish mascots in favor of the artistic and modest, which is what Athena and Phevos are. They're fun without being annoying and have really, really big feet. It's almost like they put money and time into it. It's also interesting how they look like the characters from Matt Groening's Life In Hell… which is a pretty accurate description of life in Greece, circa 2012.
2008 Beijing -- The Fuwa, "Good luck dolls" Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying, and Nini
The Chinese knocked it out of the park with this quintet of ultra-cutesy "good luck dolls," all of which represented the elements, ideals and personalities essential to the Chinese way of life. The Beijing Games even had these mascots in poses for the sports at the games. As much as one would like to hate them, they're just too nice and polite and helpful . . . unless you mention dissident journalists or the Falun Gong. Then they'll totally lose it on you.
2012 London -- Wenlock and Mandeville, two... we don't know
It seems fitting that Wenlock and Mandeville are mascots for an Olympics that will be the most security-focused Games in history. In a nation that has millions of CCTV cameras, the mascots' creepy-looking single eyes oddly remind folks of cameras. Although it does give the average chap a good target to hit in the inevitable rioting that will break out.