Paris presents latest in long history of curious Olympic mascots

Paris presents latest in long history of curious Olympic mascots
Official Olympic Phryges mascots are displayed in the headquarters of the Paris 2024 Organising Committee for the Olympic (AFP)
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Updated 16 April 2024
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Paris presents latest in long history of curious Olympic mascots

Paris presents latest in long history of curious Olympic mascots
  • This summer’s offering, a Phrygian cap, stands apart from the traditional animals and invented creatures of past games

On Monday, the Olympic flame was lit in Greece, and the traditional torch began its 68-stage three-month journey to Paris, where it will arrive on July 25 to signal the start the following day of the Games of the XXXIII Olympiad.

As the torch relay travels the length of France, and global interest in the Olympics grows daily over the next three months, one question above all others will be puzzling sports fans around the world.

What on earth is that peculiar mascot Paris has chosen to represent itself on the world stage?

The answer is a hat — or, more specifically, a Phrygian cap, as modelled by Marianne, symbol of the French Revolution.

Captured in oils in an 1830 painting by Eugene Delacroix, on show in the Louvre, Marianne and her hat are omnipresent in France, represented in busts and statues throughout the nation and pictured on coins and stamps.

Traditionally, Olympic mascots have either been animals or invented creatures of some sort.

But in a minor revolution of its own, 235 years after the storming of the Bastille, the Paris Olympic committee has gone in a different direction.

Instead, it has chosen to animate an object — not, as most people might have assumed, the Eiffel Tower (too predictable and, some might argue, too identifiable) but a piece of historic millinery.

Meet the “Phryges” (pronounced “freej” — the “s” is silent.)

There are two of the things, decked out in red, white and blue, with one sporting a running blade on its right leg to symbolize the Paralympics.

In the official online Olympic shop, they are available as plush toys or printed variously on backpacks, T-shirts, hoodies, mugs, tote bags, caps, water bottles, badges, lunch boxes. You can even buy an actual Phrygian cap, although regrettably only in infant size.

What has revolution got to do with the Olympics? Simple, says the committee behind the Phryges: “As Paris 2024’s vision is to demonstrate that sport can change lives, the mascots will be playing a major role by leading a revolution through sport.”

To scholars of ancient history, the hat is also a symbol of 18th-century cultural appropriation.

Although it came to symbolize the French Revolution, the Phrygian cap was worn originally in ancient Phrygia, a kingdom that thrived between 1200 and 700 BCE in the center of what is today Turkiye.

There is a funny thing about Olympic mascots. Including Paris, there have been 28 of the things since 1968, when the very first one appeared, but most people would be hard pressed to remember any of them.

It has not been for want of trying on behalf of the organizing committees — there have been some very peculiar offerings.

Take “Miraitowa,” the mascot of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Remember him — or it?

A subtle blend of “traditional and futurist style,” Miraitowa embodied “both the old and the new, echoing the concept of innovation from harmony.”

One of 2,042 submitted designs, it was chosen in a poll of Japanese primary school children.

In 2014, Russia played it relatively straight and, perhaps unable to settle on a single mascot, chose three for the winter games in Sochi: a hare, a polar bear and a leopard, for no apparent reason.

It was certainly a welcome break from London’s surreal offering in 2012.

“Wenlock” was a baffling confection of obscure references — a metallic look explained by the fact that he was, supposedly, “made from one of the last drops of steel used to build the Olympic Stadium,” the light on his head reminiscent of that found on London’s famous black cabs, and the shape of his forehead “identical to that of the Olympic Stadium roof.”

His large single eye was “the lens of a camera, filming everything he sees,” while “the three points on his head represent the three places on the podium for the medal winners.”

Wenlock was an object lesson in death by committee.

And why “Wenlock”? From the town of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, of course, where the traditional Much Wenlock Games were said to have inspired Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic movement.

In terms of obscure references, two other mascots stand out as contenders with Wenlock for a place on the podium.

In 2004 Athens offered Phevos and Athena, a brother and sister double act named for two gods of ancient Olympus but modelled on the “daidala,” a terracotta child’s toy from the 7th century BCE.

But until Paris entered the race, it was widely considered that the gold medal belonged to “Izzy,” which represented Atlanta in 1996. At the time, Izzy was unusual in being neither an animal, nor a human figure, nor an object. In fact, no-one was entirely sure what it was.

Originally named, appropriately, “Whatizit,” after a poor reception at its launch after the closing ceremony of the 1992 Games in Barcelona (which was represented by “Cobi,” a cubist vision of a Pyrenean mountain dog), Izzy underwent a radical makeover.

Alas, no-one was any wiser after Izzy’s relaunch, but it was finally put of its misery in November 2022, when the Phryges were unveiled in Paris.

As a snarky Associated Press report put it at the time, “Hey, Izzy: your 26-year reign as the worst Olympic mascot is over.”

Ironically, it is to France that the credit must go for making Olympic mascots a thing in the very first place — the first one was born in 1968, for the Winter Games in Grenoble.

It comes as little surprise to learn that “Shuss,” a cartoonish man with a large, round head, leaning forward over a pair of skis, “was created in a hurry,” according to the International Olympic Committee.

In fact, “in January 1967, his designer had only one night to prepare a plan for submission.”

While amusing, such matters might at first appear to be of little interest in a Saudi Arabia rightly focused on preparing for its 13th appearance at the summer Olympics, when it will be represented in the equestrian and taekwondo events.

But in August 2022, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal Al-Saud, Saudi Arabia’s sports minister and the Saudi Olympic and Paralympic Committee president, hinted that one day, in the not-too-distant future, the Kingdom might bid to host the Olympics.

“We’re open to discuss with the IOC about this for the future,” he said during an interview with France 24. “I think Saudi Arabia has showcased that we can host such events.”

It most certainly has, investing in, promoting and hosting global sports including football, golf, Formula One, tennis, boxing and wrestling, winning the bid to host the 22nd Asian Games and 7th Asian para games in Riyadh in 2034 and, demonstrating its ability to bring imagination to bear on the biggest stage, being chosen by the world to stage Expo 2030 in Riyadh.

When it comes to planning, investment, infrastructure and organization, in other words, the OIC is unlikely to harbor any doubts about the Kingdom’s ability to give the world one of the best Olympics it has ever seen.

But the big question is this: what would Saudi Arabia choose for its mascot?

As Olympic committees from Grenoble to Paris have demonstrated with depressing consistency, it is never too early to start thinking about this, the most important and potentially embarrassing aspect of every Olympics since 1968.


Conceição scores in stoppage time to get Portugal off to winning start at Euro 2024

Conceição scores in stoppage time to get Portugal off to winning start at Euro 2024
Updated 24 sec ago
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Conceição scores in stoppage time to get Portugal off to winning start at Euro 2024

Conceição scores in stoppage time to get Portugal off to winning start at Euro 2024
  • Conceição, who only made his entrance in the 90th minute, fired the ball home in the 92nd after Robin Hranac’s attempted block of Pedro Neto’s shot fell kindly for the Porto winger to shoot inside the left post

LEIPZIG, Germany: Portugal substitute Francisco Conceição scored in stoppage time for a 2-1 win over the Czech Republic in their European Championship opening game on Tuesday.
Conceição, who only made his entrance in the 90th minute, fired the ball home in the 92nd after Robin Hranac’s attempted block of Pedro Neto’s shot fell kindly for the Porto winger to shoot inside the left post.
Conceição wheeled away in delight and was booked for taking off his jersey.
It comes almost 24 years to the day since Conceição’s father, Sérgio Conceição, scored a hat trick to knock defending champion Germany out of Euro 2000.
Czech Republic goalkeeper Jindrich Stanek had thwarted Cristiano Ronaldo as the Portugal star became the first to play at six European Championship tournaments. The 39-year-old Ronaldo was unable to add to his record 14 goals in his record-extending 26th appearance at the tournament.
Portugal’s 41-year-old defender Pepe became the oldest player to play at the tournament, though he had little to do as the 2016 champions dominated ball possession and chances.
It came as a shock when Lukas Provod broke the deadlock at the other end with a fierce strike inside the far post after Vladimir Coufal laid the ball back in the 62nd minute.
Portugal drew level in the 70th when Stanek’s save of Nuno Mendes’ header rebounded off Hranac’s shin and in.
Turkiye defeated tournament debutant Georgia 3-1 in the other Group F game earlier.


New report warns of heat danger at Paris Olympics

New report warns of heat danger at Paris Olympics
Updated 18 June 2024
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New report warns of heat danger at Paris Olympics

New report warns of heat danger at Paris Olympics
  • It warned that “intense heat at the Paris Olympics in July-August 2024 could lead to competitors collapsing and in worst case scenarios dying during the Games”

PARIS: A new report backed by climate scientists and athletes warned Tuesday about the dangers posed by extreme high temperatures at this year’s Paris Olympics.
The “Rings of Fire” report — a collaboration between non-profit Climate Central, academics at Britain’s University of Portsmouth and 11 Olympians — said conditions in Paris could be worse than the last Games in Tokyo in 2021.
It warned that “intense heat at the Paris Olympics in July-August 2024 could lead to competitors collapsing and in worst case scenarios dying during the Games.”
The study adds to a growing number of calls from sports people to adjust schedules and the timing of events to take into account the physical strain of competing in higher temperatures caused by global warming.
“Rings of Fire” urges organizers of competitions typically held at the height of the northern hemisphere summer — such as the Olympics or the football World Cup — to re-think their scheduling.
They should also provide improved rehydration and cooling plans for athletes and fans to avoid the risk of heat stroke, the study argued.
The Paris Olympics, which run from July 26-August 11, are set to take place in what are usually the warmest months in the French capital which has been struck by a series of record heatwaves in recent years.
More than 5,000 people died in France as a result of searing summer heat last year when new local highs above 40 degrees Centigrade (104 Fahrenheit) were recorded around the country, according to public health data.
A study in the Lancet Planet Health journal last May found that Paris had the highest heat-related death rates of 854 European towns and cities, partly due to its lack of green space and dense population.
Rather than high temperatures, incessant rain is currently the bigger weather-related concern for Paris 2024 organizers, with regular downpours in May and June leading to unusually strong currents in the river Seine and poor water quality.
The Seine is set to host a boat parade during the unprecedented opening ceremony being planned for July 26, as well as the triathlon swimming and marathon swimming events — pollution permitting.
Organizers of Paris 2024 say they have built flexibility into their schedules, enabling them to shift around some events such as the marathon or triathlon to avoid the peaks of midday heat.
But much of the Games is set to take place in temporary stands that lack shade, while the athletes’ village has been built without air conditioning to reduce the Games’ carbon footprint.
“Sleep disruption due to heat has been cited in the build-up to the 2024 Games as a major concern by athletes, especially given the lack of air conditioning in the Olympic Village,” the report said.
Olympic teams have been offered the possibility of installing portable air-conditioning units in their accommodation, however, which many have opted to include.
One of the athletes who backed the “Rings of Fire” report, Indian triathlete Pragnya Mohan, said she had left her home country because of high temperatures, with India recently reporting its longest ever heatwave.
“With climate change, the kind of heat that we experience has increased so much,” Mohan told reporters. “I am not able to train in my country. That is one of the reasons that I moved to the UK.”
Other athletes behind the report explained how athletes have adjusted their training to take into account global warming, either waking before dawn to preserve themselves or exercising in high-tech heat chambers to acclimatize to summer temperatures.
“I’ve found myself in conditions where you’re literally trying to get through the next phase of play,” Jamie Farndale, a rugby Sevens player for Britain, told reporters.
“I’ve had teamates who had heatstroke and have spent several days back in the hotel,” he added.
The last Summer Olympics in Tokyo were widely thought to have been the hottest on record, with temperatures regularly above 30C coupled with 80 percent humidity.
Tokyo organizers moved the race walk events and two marathons 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Tokyo in the hope of cooler weather that did not really materialize.
Despite a range of anti-heat measures including misting stations, many athletes struggled while performing, including Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev who wondered aloud on court if he might die.
Speaking after Tokyo, World Athletics president Sebastian Coe, who wrote a foreword for “Rings of Fire,” warned that the “new norm” was competing in “really harsh climatic conditions.”


Guler enhances burgeoning reputation with goal for Turkiye in win over debutant Georgia at Euro 2024

Guler enhances burgeoning reputation with goal for Turkiye in win over debutant Georgia at Euro 2024
Updated 18 June 2024
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Guler enhances burgeoning reputation with goal for Turkiye in win over debutant Georgia at Euro 2024

Guler enhances burgeoning reputation with goal for Turkiye in win over debutant Georgia at Euro 2024
  • Substitute Kerem Aktürkoğlu scored a breakaway goal in the final seconds of stoppage time for Türkiye’s third
  • Georgia’s players dealt well with an intimidating atmosphere created by Türkiye’s fans

DORTMUND: Arda Guler enhanced his reputation as one of Europe’s brightest young stars by curling home a brilliant second-half goal to help Türkiye to a 3-1 win over tournament debutant Georgia at the European Championship on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old forward brought a strong end to his first season at Real Madrid to the Euros by cutting in from the right and bending a fierce shot into the top corner in the 65th minute, regaining the lead for Turkiye at 2-1 in a Group F match played in a febrile and intense atmosphere in Dortmund.
Substitute Kerem Aktürkoğlu scored a breakaway goal in the final seconds of stoppage time for Turkiye’s third.
This was a nation-stopping moment for Georgia, a South Caucasus country of 3.7 million people that are making their debut in an international soccer tournament since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, amid protests and political turmoil back home.
Georgia’s players dealt well with an intimidating atmosphere created by Turkiye’s fans and responded to Mert Muldur’s volleyed finish for the Turks in the 25th with an equalizer by Georges Mikautadze in the 32nd.
Guler’s intervention was crucial, though, and it was the latest in a string of outside-of-the-area strikes at these Euros. It also was another demonstration of his talent that was on display when he scored five goals in five games to finish a Spanish league season that he mostly missed because of injury. He was an unused substitute in the Champions League final that Madrid won.
He’ll likely find game time even harder to come by next season following the arrival of Kylian Mbappé and Endrick, even if Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti is aware he has a gem on his hands in Guler.
Georgia, at No. 75 the lowest-ranked nation at Euro 2024, could easily have snatched a point from a game played at a frenetic pace.
In stoppage time and with their goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili upfield in search of a goal, Georgia whipped in a free kick that struck the post before a shot from the rebound was cleared off the line.
The resulting corner — sent in with Mamardashvili still up in the box — was cleared and Aktürkoğlu had the freedom of Westfalenstadion to run through unchallenged to sidefoot the ball into an empty net.


Germany’s Turks give ‘host nation’ welcome to Turkiye

Germany’s Turks give ‘host nation’ welcome to Turkiye
Updated 18 June 2024
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Germany’s Turks give ‘host nation’ welcome to Turkiye

Germany’s Turks give ‘host nation’ welcome to Turkiye
  • Ozcan has said the team needs to capitalize on the large Turkish population and passionate support in Germany
  • “Our hearts beat for Turkiye, for home. Of course, Germany is also home for us, but we are Turks,” said fan Cengiz Catalpinar

DORTMUND/MUNICH: Tens of thousands of Turkiye fans draped in the country’s red flag celebrated ahead of the country’s first match of Euro 2024 against neighbor Georgia in Dortmund on Tuesday, creating a festival atmosphere akin to a host nation to welcome the team.
Almost 3 million people with Turkish roots live in Germany, following a wave of official migration that began in the 1960s. The close ties are reflected in both the German and Turkish football teams. Germany captain Ilkay Gundogan has Turkish roots, while Turkiye’s midfielder Salih Ozcan, was born in Cologne and plays for Borussia Dortmund.
Ozcan has said the team needs to capitalize on the large Turkish population and passionate support in Germany.
Heavy rain and forecasts of thunderstorms closed Dortmund’s 25,000 capacity fan zone and other giant viewing spots in the cities of North Rhine Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state, but fans en route to the stadium made good on their promise to make some noise. Berlin’s two fan zones were also closed due to bad weather.
“Our hearts beat for Turkiye, for home. Of course, Germany is also home for us, but we are Turks,” said fan Cengiz Catalpinar.
Mehmet Guelcicek had driven for two days from Zurich in Switzerland to reach Dortmund and watch the match.
“We are Turks and always there with the team.”
Many Turks were also celebrating the Muslim festival of Eid Al-Adha, when typically, animals such as sheep are sacrificed.
Ugur Aydin walked with an inflatable sheep.
“We saved him from the Eid sacrifice festival and are celebrating our own festival today with a 3 point win over Georgia. And hopefully the same again for the next two games, against Portugal and the Czech Republic,” he said.
Turkiye begin their Euro 2024 campaign against newcomers Georgia knowing a winning start in one of the tournament’s weaker groups would give them a great chance of making the knockout stages after disappointing last time around.
In hot sunshine in Munich in southern Germany fans began to stream into the city’s fan zone.
“This is a big deal for us and it is great to be in Germany for the tournament, to join with the Turkish community here. We are the second hosts,” said Erdem Sakinc, a 21-year-old student from Ankara studying in Germany.
Georgia, meanwhile, are playing in their first ever major tournament and are the clear underdogs
Georgia fan Veronika Gogokhia said, “This is a historical moment for our country and our team. This is a debut and the whole of Georgia, all Georgians all over the world are really excited,” she said.
Later on Tuesday at the stadium around 40 fans from each set of supporters were involved in brief scuffles and police moved in between them, a Reuters reporter inside the stadium said.


Mainoo happy to build with Ten Hag at Man Utd

Mainoo happy to build with Ten Hag at Man Utd
Updated 18 June 2024
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Mainoo happy to build with Ten Hag at Man Utd

Mainoo happy to build with Ten Hag at Man Utd
  • Mainoo’s breakthrough season with the Red Devils earned him a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024
  • “Happy to be building with him, he’s already got two trophies and hopefully there is more to come,” he said

BLANKENHAIN, Germany: England midfielder Kobbie Mainoo is happy speculation about Manchester United boss Erik ten Hag’s future is over after he was given his first-team chance by the Dutchman.
Mainoo’s breakthrough season with the Red Devils, which included scoring the winning goal in a FA Cup final win over English champions Manchester City, earned him a call-up to Gareth Southgate’s squad for Euro 2024.
Despite winning a second trophy in two seasons at Old Trafford, Ten Hag’s future remained in doubt after United finished eighth in the Premier League.
However, Ten Hag confirmed on Sunday he has been told by the club he will remain in charge next season.
“Happy to be building with him, he’s already got two trophies and hopefully there is more to come,” Mainoo told reporters at England’s training camp on Tuesday.
“It’s nice to have that piece of mind. We know what manager we are going back to.
“He put so much trust in me and belief in me. I can’t thank him enough.”
Mainoo came off the bench late on in England’s 1-0 win over Serbia on Sunday to make his competitive debut for Southgate’s team.
England next face Denmark in Frankfurt on Thursday and Mainoo is looking forward to facing two of his Manchester United team-mates, Rasmus Hojlund and Christian Eriksen.
Eriksen scored in the Danes’ 1-1 draw with Slovenia in their opening game, three years on from suffering a cardiac arrest on the field during Euro 2020.
“Me and Ramsus are both young and we are quite close,” added Mainoo.
“Christian, I’ve learned a lot from him. The journey he’s been on since the last Euros has been amazing.
“If I am to play on Thursday I’ll need to put all that aside.”