The organizers of the Beijing Winter Olympics turned to an old friend to choose a mascot: the panda.
Organizers selected Bing Dwen Dwen, designed by Cao Xue, from more than 5,800 potential mascot designs that had been submitted, according to the official Olympics website. Wrapped in a protective layer of ice mimicking an astronaut’s suit, Bing made its way around the bubble that houses hotels, competition venues and the Olympic Village.
The panda, once considered endangered, is native to China and is the country’s national animal. It has long been used by the government as a diplomatic tool – like the pandas that were donated to zoos in the United States – and was minted on government-issued gold coins. In 2008, when Beijing hosted the Summer Olympics, organizers chose a panda as one of five official Fuwa, or lucky dolls, that served as mascots.
A committee made up of representatives from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and Jilin University of the Arts chose Bing, which means “ice” in Mandarin. And Dwen Dwen translates to “sturdy and lively” and represents children, according to the website.
The first Olympic mascot, Shuss, was created for the 1968 Games in Grenoble, France. At the time, organizers referred to Shuss as a “character” and not a mascot. Its crude depiction of a man hurtling down a slope on skis is likely the result of it being created “in a hurry,” according to the Olympics website. The designer had one night to design Shuss.
Since then, there have been 26 mascots for the Winter and Summer Games, including an anthropomorphic American bald eagle dressed as Uncle Sam for the 1984 Games in Los Angeles. One of the most famous was Cobi, a Pyrenean mountain dog who was drawn in cubist form, for the 1992 Games in Barcelona.