Get to know the London Olympics mascot

Every big competition, whether it be a World Cup, European Championship or Olympics has to have a mascot. Nobody's exactly sure why, except for some vague notion of marketing and brand identity. The London Olympics mascot even has a friend, and you had better get used to them, as you'll be seeing an awful lot of them in the summer of 2012.

All the information about the mascots is on the London Olympics website at www.london2012.com. You'll learn that they were made from the last 2 drops of British steel used for the 2012 Olympic stadium.

The result is a couple of shiny, one-eyed clawed creatures that rather resemble a pair of bottle-openers. Perhaps that's not inappropriate given the British fondness for watching their sport with a cold beer near at hand.

Wenlock, the Olympics mascot, is named after the village of Much Wenlock in Shropshire. In the 19th century their village games inspired Baron Pierre de Coubertin to found the modern Olympic movement. That single eye represents a camera lens, and the 3 points on the head represent the places on the podium where successful athletes receive their medals.

His pal Mandeville, the Paralympics mascot, gets his name from Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, where the Paralympic Games were born in 1948 in a small-scale sports competition for World War II soldiers with spinal injuries.

The names reflect the origins of the Olympic and Paralympics movements in less commercial times. For a more 21st century perspective, visit the official website shop where one or the other London Olympics mascot adorns innumerable souvenirs and toys, ranging from children's backpacks (£13) to a set of bed linen (just £30)

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