21 May 2010

Meet Wenlock and Mandeville and, er, Dave

Wenlock and Mandeville, the mascots for the London 2012 Olympic Games were unveiled on Wednesday and rather than comment straight away I thought I would hold my horses for a while to make up my mind.  As you can see from the video above some not insubstantial thought (not to mention money) has gone in to their design and the creation of a back story for the pair.  Yet there was that little nagging thought at the back of my mind that I had seen something very similar before.  Still quite can’t put my finger on it…

I'll come up with it soon, I'm sure.  The question is, though – what exactly are they?  Their single eye (which some have remarked makes them look more than a little rude but then dirty minds abound here in the UK) is meant to represent the singular focus of athletes in preparation for the games.  Others have remarked that they are altogether an accurate symbol to represent Britain under the new Conservative Liberal coalition government we have here.  After all, in the kingdom of the blind maybe these one eyed thingamajigs are King (certainly their political alter egos, Messrs Clegg and Cameron are doing a fair impression of nouveau royalty).

Others still have compared the pair to devils which has left me as perplexed as the design itself.  However, one thing is inspired – and that is the names that have been chosen for them.

Much Wenlock is the village where the founder of the IOC, Baron Pierre de Coubertin had his Eureka moment.  A local Doctor, William Brookes, organized yearly games to promote the ‘moral, physical and intellectual improvement of the inhabitants’.  The Baron took the idea and ran with it – literally.  So, we have one-eyed Wenlock.

Stoke Mandeville hospital was where the Paralympics movement began and the use of its name is an unequivocal attempt to elevate the Paralympics to a more overt position in the sports calendar.  So, as such the names are – not to put too fine a point on it – pretty damn cool.

What of this strange pair, however?  Will they win over the hearts of the world’s children?  I think if their marketing remains as astute as it is now then quite probably the answer is yes.  One small problem, however – I am unsure how well they will lend themselves to being rendered as soft toys as they are (in the back story) made from the final drops of steel used in the creation of the girders used to build the main stadium.

Certainly the marketers are aiming high – they hope that Wenlock and Mandeville related merchandise will raise as much as 20 million US dollars to help soften the huge Olympic bill for London and the deficit ridden UK in general. 

The pair will not necessarily always be seen together.  One of the largest supermarket chains in the UK which sponsors the Paralympics has already said that it wants Mandeville to visit its stores throughout the country, which leaves poor old Wenlock somewhat in the lurch.

As products go, however, they have as good a chance as any in succeeding in the notoriously fickle pre-teen market, at which they are primarily aimed.

If they interest children in sport – and just as importantly its ethos of fair play – then it is job done and done well.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but think that I have seen something similar somewhere before - and I still can't quite figure out where.... However, I am quite sure they will survive!