Olympics and Tigers and Bears, OH MY!

Whether it’s a sheepdog, a snowman, or drops of steel with cameras for eyes (thanks for those, London), the host country’s choice for an Olympic mascot has become a way to set the tone for the upcoming games. As the 2018 Olympic Games officially start today with the Opening Ceremonies, and the Paralympics already underway, we at KPOP Foods wanted to dive into South Korea’s choice in characters to represent them for the next couple of weeks.

A Brief History of This Peculiar Tradition

The Olympics have been around forever, with the first games starting way back in 776 B.C. However, the Olympic Games as we know them began a little more than a century ago in 1896, taking place in Athens, Greece. As the years went on, more traditions were adopted that now seem like staples to the games, such as the Oath in 1920, the Olympic torch in 1928, and, of course, the mascot in 1968.

In 1968, the Winter Olympic games were hosted in Grenoble, France, and the host country believed that adding a symbol beyond their Olympic emblem would add to the festivities. Their solution was Schuss, an alpine skiing character with a blue uniform and a big, round, red head. The idea stuck, and the following 1972 Olympics in Munich introduced the first official Olympic mascot – a dachshund dog named Waldi, designed with the colors of the Olympic flag.

Meet Soohorang & Bandabi

Following the precedent set by past host countries, South Korea wanted to choose two characters that would symbolize the positive attributes of their country. And what better way to do that than with adorable animals that are rooted in Korean tradition and values?

Soohorang, pictured left, won the hearts of the PyeongChang 2018 Organizing Committee to become the official mascot of this year’s Winter Games. The character is a white tiger, which is directly related to Korean mythology and remains a symbol of trust, strength, and protection. His name comes from “sooho” meaning protection and the middle part of “ho-rang-i,” which can be translated to tiger.

The official mascot of the 2018 Paralympic Games has a similar symbolic significance. Bandabi, pictured right, is an Asiatic black bear and, is not only the token animal for the Gangwon Province in which the games are taking place, but is also emblematic of strong will and courage. The name originates from the combination of two words: “bandal,” the Korean word meaning “half-moon”, as seen by the crescent moon on the character chest, and “bi”, an expression used to celebrate the games.

Your Flavor Mascot

For some reason, it feels like the Winter Olympics don’t get as much hype around them as the ones in summer. We think it’s because the snack foods just aren’t going for gold. Get yourself a bottle of KPOP to add a little heat to these Winter Games.


KPOP Foods is not an official sponsor of the 2018 Winter Olympics and all information above is accredited to research from a variety of public articles. Photo credits: Olympic.org

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