Friday, August 10, 2012

Cheburashka, the London 2012 Olympics' short Russian

via bosco sport's facebook

It wouldn't be an Olympics without some cringeworthy mascots and Wenlock and Mandeville, who were designed by Grant Hunter - apparently after watching Monsters Inc – certainly don't disappoint. They join a plush pantheon of ghastly Olympic toys that of course includes Sydney 2000's own horrific Millie, Ollie and Syd. Team GB's mascot, Pride the lion, avoids the kitsch factor but sadly, also the kawaii factor. But all is not lost. The Russians have brought Cheburashka to town.

former england cricket team captain andrew flintoff at the bosco club/bosco sport's facebook

Who is Cheburashka? 

An adorable, bear-like creature with gi-normous ears who first appeared in Russian author Eduard Uspensky's 1966 book Krokodil Genai Ego Druzya (Crocodile Gena and his Friends). According to the story, Cheburashka, who hails from a tropical forest, falls asleep in a crate of oranges and winds up delivered to a Russian shop. In 1969, the character starred in the first of a series of stop-motion animated films created by the Soyuzmultfilm studio.

Beloved by Russians, Cheburashka has now, not surprisingly, managed to become a cult figure in Japan, after the films were realised there in 2001 and Cheburashkamania - and considerable merchandising - ensued. As did a protected legal dispute over precisely who owns the rights to the character: the author or the studio, which reportedly first created its likeness.

Cheburashka first became the Russian team's mascot at the 2004 Athens Games, in his original brown colour; upgrading to white for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin; and then to red for the Beijing Games in 2008. At the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he re-emerged in an electric blue colour.

Bosco Sport - which made the Russian team's groovy red and white tracksuit, to which we are giving the bronze medal for London 2012 podium attire after the Team USA and Team GB uniforms - is selling a number of different Cheburashkas. These include one sporting a mini version of the Russian uniform:

via bosco sport's facebook
Collectors are snapping them up for resale on eBay, where the plethora of Cheburashkas on offer includes a small white version for $36.95


And a large red one for $68.95: 


Clearly, Russians adore their Cheburashkas. 

Here is basketball player Dmitry Khostov clutching a Cheburashka in mid huddle with the team just prior to competing against Brazil on the 2nd August. Could he be a lucky talisman? Russia beat Brazil and will face off against Spain in today's semi-final. (UPDATE 11/08: Not so lucky after all - they lost). 
Cheburashka also helped console pole vaulter Elena Isynbaeva, who missed out on making history by winning three consecutive Olympic gold medals at these Games and had to suffice with bronze earlier in the week. Here they are at the Bosco Club on Wednesday singing the national anthem:

via bosco sport's facebook

Sadly, Cheburashka looks to have been given the ass as an official mascot of the 2014 Winter Olympics, which are taking place in the Russian town of Sochi. In his place is a quartet of dreary alternatives: a polar bear, a hare, a snowflake and a ray of light


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