The Olympics wouldn't be any kind of sporting event worth its salt if there weren’t an official mascot to spur on the action; something that really expresses our home country's national spirit and heritage, to boost the morale of the masses of the UK’s athletes and fans. Something we can take pride in. Something that's just quintessentially ... British.
Oh, wait. We got Wenlock and Mandeville. It's not all bad though – despite our nation's eye-wateringly embarrassing effort this time around, looking back over the years it's fair to say that most Olympics mascots have been embarrassing, weird or just downright awful. Get your cringe faces ready: here's our pick of the worst.
Schneemann – 1976 Winter Olympics, Innsbruck
Don't be fooled by that lopsided stitched-on smile. Just looking at Schneemann’s dead, dead eyes makes me shiver. Innsbruck’s ‘friendly’ (aka 'possessed') snowball mascot was creepy and terrifyingly sinister, and I’m 99% sure that it inspired the later Jack Frost horror film series.
Amik – 1976 Summer Olympics, Montreal
It's a beaver. Apparently.
Cobi – 1992 Summer Olympics, Barcelona
Really? That’s it? Supposedly designed in the Cubist image of a Catalan sheepdog (which is fancy talk for ‘it took 30 seconds to draw’), Cobi surprisingly turned out to be the most profitable mascot in the history of the Olympics, and even had his own TV show, The Cobi Troupe.
Izzy – 1996 Summer Olympics, Atlanta
Potentially the most badly designed mascot ever (Olympics or no Olympics), Izzy was hugely unpopular. Despite the marketing team desperately giving him a makeover before the event due to the widespread negative reception, Izzy remained looking like some sort of horrible energy drink/The Fly crossover, and was likened to less-than-flattering images like “post-Chernobyl navel lint” and “sperm in sneakers”. Ouch.
Athena and Phevos – 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens
Weird disproportionate brother and sister team Athena and Phevos may look fairly blasé (designed to represent “participation, brotherhood, equality, cooperation, fair play and the everlasting Greek value of human scale” yada yada), but their design actually engendered a sizeable lawsuit backlash from groups dedicated to preserving classical Greek culture, who claimed that the mascots degraded the Greek gods they were named after (Athena and Apollo).
Neve and Gliz – 2006 Winter Olympics, Turin
Embodying the snow and ice that characterises the Winter Olympics, Neve and Gliz were a modern update of the frozen Beelzebub Schneemann. Neve (in red) was designed to represent “softness, friendship and elegance”, while Gliz symbolised “enthusiasm and joy”. Cute and cuddly as they may be, a worrying theory soon surfaced that the pair had been seen feeding on human blood. Though the organisers were quick to denounce the rumours, during the Games a large number of pictures surfaced of Neve and Gliz attacking innocent civilians – who were never seen again.
Olly, Syd and Millie – 2000 Summer Olympics, Sydney
Though just about erring on the right side of cute to be coveted by most under-10s, Olly, Syd and Millie were relentlessly cheerful, irritatingly perky and, being in a towering trio, more than slightly threatening. Nothing says ENFORCED FUN more than a supersized gang of a kookaburra, platypus and echidna bearing down on you. We much preferred unofficial mascot Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat.
Wenlock and Mandeville – 2012 Summer Olympics, London
And finally, we arrive at the mascots for this year’s Games, Wenlock and Mandeville. You’d think that a lion or bulldog would have been a natural selection for a UK mascot (hell, even a googly-eyed fish and chips variant would have done the job), but no, we get two drops of steel with CCTV cameras for eyes, supposedly formed by a rainbow. Looking like something from an Orwellian nightmare, the ridicule has been pretty much absolute and widespread for these two – you have only to read the Amazon customer reviews for the official memorabilia to get the idea. Once the Games are over, be prepared to see these two mooching around the abandoned Olympics village, pulling dispirited poses and trying to beat passing pigeons into McDonalds-shaped burgers.