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Boris Bear23 May 2010 Zie Nederlandse versie
by Arnold Jansen op de Haar
Two walking mobile telephones: that was my response to a first glimpse of Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the London Olympic Games. The mascot is a tricky phenomenon. Everyone wants to voice their opinion.
Actually, I think a mascot works best when it emerges unprompted. Think of Wayne Rooney being crowned as mascot of the English national football team, one can envisage an inflatable Rooney popping up here, there and everywhere in the stands. The Munich Olympic Games embraced Waldi, the Dachshund; the World Cup might well adopt Wayne, the Bulldog.
English football fans always take the ‘boy next door’ to their hearts. In the past they favoured George Best and Paul Gascoigne, guys whose personal lives haven’t worked out quite as well. They attract headlines about women and drink, and about ‘Gazza’ having to be restrained by six policemen to prevent him from drowning himself in a hotel room by trying to keep his head under water.
Of course, it took endless meetings to produce Wenlock and Mandeville. They are the sad product of compromises. Never engage a large group in discussions about design: your mascot ends up resembling a Philishave. Ah yes, the names are taken from places that played a key role in establishing the modern Olympic Games and the Paralympics. It’s a bonus that Basingstoke and Milton Keynes were not involved.
Wenlock and Mandeville unfortunately lack a proper face and closely resemble each other. This has already led to suggestions for different names: Nick and Dave, after Nick Clegg and David Cameron. Luckily we have just gone through a change of government, otherwise we may have been tempted to christen them: Ed Balls and Lord Adonis. ‘Hi, there we have Adonis with Balls!’
Wenlock and Mandeville, Teletubbies for the 21st century, are introduced by a short video. It shows granddad George creating two figures from the last two drops of steel fallen from the final steel beam to prop up the Olympic Stadium. Actually, it is almost scary. A dark clip that starts with an industrial alarm, granddad George resembles a gangster and London looks like the victim of a nuclear attack.
Occasionally mascots hit just the right note. Think back to the World Championships Athletics in Berlin; during the course of this event we saw a growing affinity between a bear named Berlino and Usain Bolt. One day, Usain Bolt entered the track in a shirt sporting ‘Ich bin ein Berlino’. This was promptly followed by Berlino in a shirt proclaiming ‘Ich bin ein Bolt’.
There are pictures of Berlino tripping over a camera whilst giving a piggyback to a Jamaican athlete. A German with a sense of humour: now that is an inspiring concept.
Maybe Wenlock and Mandeville are created to make sure that London is doing things differently. The London Olympics Logo set the avant-garde theme. It will be modern and uplifting, quite unlike the previous games in Beijing, which managed to resemble the opening of the ‘Reichsparteitag’ in Nurnberg. Actually, nationalism has made quite a comeback in the Olympic Games.
London’s strength is its cosmopolitan character, of course, and that is why they opted for the two mobile phone-like characters. However, England cherishes its eccentrics and therefore London already has a mascot: Mayor Boris Johnson. His hair resembles that of Zakumi, mascot of the Football World Cup, he moves around on a bicycle and moreover he entices cuddles, a key requirement for a mascot.
If only they used this image to create a video: Boris in a close fitting swimsuit with bathing cap. There is already a clip of Boris in action against a German football team. Boris brings down former German international Maurizio Gaudino by executing a rugby tackle. There are also pictures of Boris giving a speech about ping pong. In it, Boris uses the ‘ping pong is coming home’ theme to make fun of nationalism: ‘Ping pong was invented on the dining tables of England.’
Forget about walking mobile telephones, Boris will be the only authentic mascot of the London Olympic Games: Boris Bear. Do purchase your inflatable Boris Johnson bear today, or a Boris Johnson wig and a T-shirt with the slogan: ‘We invented ping pong’. Or even better with the words: ‘We invented Boris’.
© Arnold Jansen op de Haar
© Translation Holland Park Press
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