Quatchi, Miga, Sumi (and Mukmuk too!)

Terri Theodore, The Canadian Press ADVERTISEMENT

SURREY, B.C. - Organizers of the 2010 Winter Games have turned to aboriginal myths and legends to create a trio of mascots they're hoping will create millions in royalties.
The mascots were unveiled in Broadway-musical style Tuesday before a crowd of adoring school children, the same age group the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Organizing Committee is targeting for sales of its plush toys and T-shirts.
Quatchi is a young sasquatch with a long brown beard and blue earmuffs, while Miga is a snowboarding sea-bear - part killer whale and part kermode bear.
And Sumi is a spirit animal that flies with the wings of a native thunderbird.
There's even an sidekick: Mukmuk, a small friendly Vancouver Island marmot.
John Furlong, the organizing committee's chief executive who has had to fend off worries about Games cost overruns, said it was the happiest half hour he's had in two years.
"You want to see the children happy," said Furlong. "It felt fantastic to watch it and feel it."
Nine-year-old Tanya Montani of Richmond, B.C., already picked Miga as her favourite.
"She likes snowboarding and I do too," she said. "I thought they were all really cool."
Aidan Doherty,10, said the mascots seem to represent Canada.
"Sumi has Haida on his hat, Miga's an orca whale," he said. "Quatchi's a sasquatch and sasquatches are found in Canada."
Even though the committee - known as VANOC - has been secretly testing public reaction to the mascots across the country and internationally the secret never leaked out.
"Today was about a surprise," Furlong said. "It was like Christmas morning - the children coming down and seeing that look in their eye."
One of the mascots' creators, Vicki Wong, said the characters came from a mix of different Canadian ingredients, legends and myths.
"The ideas of transfigurations and animals that are different parts of beings and spirits that sort of represent our values on the West Coast came out in these characters" she said.
VANOC creative services director Ali Gardner said the artists presented a number of concepts at the start and the testing whittled the selection down to the final three.
"These ones just emerged as being the ones that had that magic factor with kids and adults," said Gardner.
Going with mythical creatures was a marketing mistake, according to Lindsay Meredith, professor of marketing at Simon Fraser University.
"They're going to have to spend a bucket of more money to make this catch than if they had gone a little more mainstream," he explained.
Meredith said many people expected a whale or bear, not the two mixed.
"I had to look at (Miga) and say 'what the hell is it.' It's got a cowlick stuck up on the top of its head," he said of the mascot sea bear that has an orca whale fin its head.
Meredith called the mascots "Pokemon modern" for their Japanese style.
However he gave Olympic organizers full marks for the media splash, getting the word out about the trio and said the other sales pitch is the Olympic connection.
"These things have Olympic rings plastered on their chest - trust me they will sell."
The names of the mascots are all derived from First Nations myths.
Sumi is an aboriginal guardian spirit and Mega is from an aboriginal story about a monster.
"We tested (the names) internationally to make sure they were easy to pronounce and they didn't mean anything that we wouldn't want them to in other languages," Gardner laughed.
It's the magic factor that Dave Cobb, VANOC's vice-president of revenue and marketing, hopes will generate millions in Olympic revenue.
Cobb said he hoped they'll reach the $46-million target in royalty sales for licensed merchandise.
"To generate that we'll need gross at retail about $500 million to $600 million, so it's a very aggressive number," he said.
Cobb was optimistic it can be done, especially given the reaction the children displayed during the unveiling.
"We'll probably go home today a little bit more confident we'll hit those numbers," he said.
Furlong too wants the mascots to be a revenue generator.
"I hope they'll be attractive and people will want one for themselves," he said. "It's a big part of the program."
Officials said the mascot merchandise will go on sale immediately through the Bay department store chain, the 2010 Games main retail pipeline.
Comodification of cultural heritage, hideous fluffy little symbols of consumerism, the whole olympic thing burns, none of it has any soul. Don't get me started.
totally agree. I'm in Vancouver and we have homeless and inner city poverty and no British Columbian is going to reap any of this great thing. The olympics will turn our city into a police state. They have already tazered two people to death. plenty of people do not want these blasted games.
plus they are pimping first nations stories and legends and the gov doesn't really give a rats **** about our first nation people.
The Olympics, who cares they all take drugs anyway, it's our olympic junkies against thiers. It's not good for children to learn how to ski on drugs for fractions of seconds, what's that about, why can't I see the olympic ideals? When will village idiot become an olympic sport, it's time has come.
That's been here for a long time..better known as the Special Olympics
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