Olympic mascots: Kids love them; parents not so much...

During the second half of their stay in London during the Olympic Games, the Mendes family try to discover the story behind the Olympic mascots.

By Sonia Mendes
Olympic mascots: Kids love them; parents not so much... (Top) Lily poses with a 'Filmstar Wenlock' statue in Leicester Square. (Below) Elissa loved her new toy, a plush Wenlock.

Poor Wenlock has been receiving a whole lot of heat these days. If you haven't "met" him and his friend Mandeville yet, they are the mascots created to represent the London 2012 Olympic Games and the London 2012 Paralympic Games, respectively.

According to the international press, the mascots have not been well received as symbols of the Olympics. Even the Canadian media have been jumping on Wenlock and Mandeville, like this recent article in The Toronto Star that criticizes the two characters for missing the mark and "scaring children." But I would have to disagree. My own kids offer up ample evidence that this quirky-looking pair is doing precisely what it should — befriending children and capturing their young imaginations.

As we head into the second half of our stay in London while my husband, Ian, helps to cover the Games for Sportsnet, I have been reflecting on how much impact this major sporting event is having on our two young daughters. While the jury is still out as to how "wowed" they are with the world-class athleticism represented here in London, what I do know for certain is that Wenlock has made a lasting impression.

A couple of days after we arrived, we were doing some sight-seeing near Trafalgar Square when the girls started clamouring for souvenirs. After perusing a couple of gift shops, eight-year-old Elissa selected a small, plush Wenlock as her prize. Immediately, her four-year-old sister, Lily, wanted one, too; she was devastated to be told "no" since we had just bought her an overpriced snowglobe containing a double-decker bus.

Building on their interest in the one-eyed creature, I decided to hunt for more Wenlock-themed fun on the London 2012 Olympic website. Sure enough, the site delivered with a series of features like "Make your own mascot" and interactive games that thrilled both of my daughters.

Olympic mascots: Kids love them; parents not so much...  

Elissa is very astute; she is the kind of kid who is always listening and absorbing information, even when you think she's not paying attention. So I had to laugh one evening when, as I was putting her to bed, she asked about Ian's television story that day in which he tried to figure out what the mascots represented. She then drew my attention to her June 2012 issue of Chickadee magazine. With a kid-friendly focus on the Olympics, the magazine had dedicated half a page to "The Story of Wenlock and Mandeville." The simple text explained that both mascots are named after places in England and are "designed to look like two drops of the liquid steel used to build the Olympic Stadium." The accompanying illustration also pointed out some of the mascots' subtle design features — like their heads, which are shaped like Olympic medals.

Having read and re-read her Chickadee — as she always does — Elissa was perplexed as to why the adults didn't seem to understand the meaning behind it. She also seemed just a bit jealous that a blonde-haired British girl — featured in Daddy's television story — had embraced Wenlock and called him "cuddly" with her cute little accent.

Presumably, the mascots were intended to resonate with kids. It seems that they do just that. Plus, considering that Olympic organizers claim the mascots make up about 20 percent of the total London Games licensed merchandise — which they expect to top $1.5 billion — it seems that they are doing more than a fine job of supporting the games.

So isn't it a bit ironic that adult critics are stonewalling Wenlock as fiercely as kids seem to be embracing him?

This article was originally published on Aug 02, 2012

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