London mascots make Izzy look good

Whatever else the London Olympics accomplish, Atlantans should be grateful for one thing: moving our 1996 mascot Izzy down on the list of most bizarre Olympic mascots.

The Atlanta mascot Izzy was considered strange at the time.

The Atlanta mascot Izzy was considered strange at the time.

Some have described Wenlock and Mandeville as Orwellian.

Some have described Wenlock and Mandeville as Orwellian.

Atlanta’s mascot began life as “Whatizit” but when that name, unbelievably, didn’t catch on, it was shortened to the punchier, pithier “Izzy.” He (she? it?) was widely derided for its cross-eyed face and blobby shape. AJC columnist Colin Campbell described Izzy as “a toothy blue maggot with a case of gas.” And that was one of the kinder descriptions.

But now come the London mascots — there are two of them — Wenlock and Mandeville, whose strange appearance makes Izzy look rather conventional.

Londoners and visitors are apparently not enamored of the pair, the AP reports.

Since they were selected as the official mascots back in 2009, detractors have had a field day with the pair, questioning how faceless monsters fashioned out of “drops of steel” — the duo’s creation story — won out over 100 other designs by artists and agencies.

“It’s not so friendly,” said Jenny Zhang, looking at a Wenlock while in London from China for business. “We don’t see a smiling face, it’s not a friendly eye. It’s just watching you.”

Their watchful eyes — described in many forums as toy versions of London’s omnipresent CCTV lenses — seem to have caused the most discomfort, drawing Orwellian comparisons and references to surveillance states. Wenlock figurines in police gear have come under fire from dozens of online commenters decrying the “fascist playthings” and “totalitarian toys.”

Actor Ewan McGregor tweeted his disappointment after seeing plastic mascot statutes in London’s Regents Park: “With this country’s artistic heritage this one eyed joke made me sad.”

But at least the mascots’ names, unlike Izzy, bear some relevance to the Olympics.

Wenlock was named after the Shropshire town of Much Wenlock, which helped inspire Pierre de Coubertin to found the modern Olympics; Mandeville is named for Stoke Mandeville, the town where the Paralympics began.

The pair are likely to be featured in some form Friday during the Opening Ceremony, with an estimated television audience of 4 billion watching. And if the critics are right, this time the mascots may be watching back.

What are your memories of Izzy and the Atlanta Olympics — good, bad, or in the words of Juan Antonio Samaranch, “exceptional?”

71 comments Add your comment

Tom

July 25th, 2012
7:18 am

Muhammad Ali and Celine Dion were awesome. Having the marathon do their turnaround at my alma mater Oglethorpe, pretty cool. Being drenched by pop-up t’storms at beach volleyball with little place for shelter, kinda frustrating. Did find it somewhat amusing when phone reps kept transferring New Mexico ticket orders to an international department….or when a bus driver pulled over in panic before going on the busy interstate, and they had to get another bus quick. Then you had the pickup trucks parading on the track at the opening ceremonies. Kinda shook my head at the sight of that, but hey… it’s Georgia!

Tom

July 25th, 2012
7:19 am

Oh, And while the park bomb was tragic, and made me and all of us angry, Atlanta came together and moved on. Hopefully, that’s not the only thing the games will be remembered for

rob

July 25th, 2012
8:14 am

I watched the olympics from up north, 4 years later i moved to this city and have loved it every since, my only question is, why didnt they just run the marathon around 285?

Stan

July 25th, 2012
8:35 am

No, the London mascot does not make Izzy look good. When it comes to designing a mascot, perhaps the marketing department should consider the rule for selecting a vice-president: first, do no harm. Izzy embarrassed Atlanta, plain and simple.

Strange Murphy

July 25th, 2012
8:55 am

Olympic mascots are a stupid marketing ploy. Always thought they were stupid.

Roz

July 25th, 2012
8:56 am

Watching the women’s 5,000 meter race in Atlanta and seeing the crowd rise to their feet and cheer on the last runner crossing the finish line – a good three laps behind the others. The respect that the spectators had for that woman – who was the best from her country – brought tears to my eyes and made me realize the true meaning of the Games.

Abner

July 25th, 2012
9:04 am

The ajc.com headline for this story- “London’s characters outdim Atlanta’s”
Outdim? That is not even a word. Come on guys/gals, you’re supposed to be writers. At least use real words.

TL

July 25th, 2012
9:06 am

Riding MARTA and being crammed in like sardines. Someone at the 5 pts station started chanting USA and the crowd went with it and was so much fun. Hearing all of the voices from all over the world. It brought the world to a young woman and gave her a new love of it.

Charles

July 25th, 2012
9:07 am

I am waiting to see the opening / closing ceremonies at the London Olympics. See if there ceremonies will be better, same or worst than the ones we had in Atlanta back in 1996 which was a complete garbage! Compare all these to the one in Beijing Olympics in 2008. World class and doubt any country on this planet will ever perform such ceremonies so much beauty, culture & grace like China.

Amanda

July 25th, 2012
9:09 am

I was a young teenager during the Olympics and my brother was about 8. We thought Izzy was great. Mascots are geared to kids not adults.

BlackMoses

July 25th, 2012
9:11 am

Sorry….Nothing can make Izzy look good.

Made in China

July 25th, 2012
9:12 am

No one will ever top China.

JSM

July 25th, 2012
9:12 am

Dont be too obsessed with Izzy. I watched the games from 1000 miles away and had 0 recollection of the mascot until this story. People around the country and the world just dont care what Atlanta chose 16 years ago. Much the same way people outside the South dont care for sweet tea or reliving the Civil War every day of our lives.

JSM

July 25th, 2012
9:19 am

btw…they are missing out on the sweet tea!!

Hendog315

July 25th, 2012
9:22 am

JSM—you are a “Damn Yankee”!!

Road Scholar

July 25th, 2012
9:24 am

JSM: That’s the War of the Northern Aggression….there is nothing “civil” about war!

Izzy was ok! Did the one on the right wet it’s pants?

Patrick

July 25th, 2012
9:27 am

When my friend and I went to see an Olympic baseball game, we ran into a lot of the vendors selling souvenirs and other krep. I made sure to not buy something that had Izzy’s likeness on it. I think I ended up buying a Velcro wallet that had “Atlanta 1996″ and the Olympic flame on it; he bought a headband that could be filled with water and frozen. I think he also bought an Izzy doll for a cousin or something. That was the weirdest-looking thing I had seen in my life, but the new mascots take the cake.

Izzy the Great

July 25th, 2012
9:28 am

I loved Izzy! I was still living in Atlanta and worked at Advantage International, one of the key marketing companies for the Olympics. I just missed meeting Grant Hill in our office, but I got to meet the beautiful blue eyes that were attached to Rowdy Gaines! I have a jumbo size Izzy that is as tall as me and it sits in my five year old’s room. He love it! In spite of the bombing, the Olympic spirit in Atlanta was incredible! I was proud of my “second” hometown (originally from Macon)! As far as I’m concerned, nobody else can do it any better than The ATL did!

JOD

July 25th, 2012
9:31 am

Between the 2, I would choose Izzy, blue maggot that he is. I do wish we hadn’t used the chrome pick ups – that was just tacky and weird.

We attended the parades and visited the Budweiser clydesdale barn – I still have the bow from one of their tails that the trainer gave me. It was a lot of fun.

@Roz and TL – Great memories!

JSM

July 25th, 2012
9:38 am

Hen…i like the Yankees and Braves :)

Road, you are proof of what i meant. 150+ years ago…time to let it go brother. ease gently into the 21st century

Barbara

July 25th, 2012
9:48 am

I liked Izzy. Have a stuffed one. Still have an Izzy magnet on my refrigerator. This Olympics in England brings back the excitement of that time. One of Atlanta’s 2X Olympic Gold Medal winners was featured this past week on TV. She exchanged her running shoes for heels and has a well known beauty salon now. I wonder if any of my pins are now worth anything?

PJ

July 25th, 2012
10:04 am

This is to Olympic mascots as Obama is to Jimmy Carter

darren

July 25th, 2012
10:09 am

Now if they can just build an Olympic torch that looks worse than our McDonald’s french fry box, we will feel some satisfaction on two fronts.

Kelly

July 25th, 2012
10:09 am

My family and I have wonderful memories of the 1996 Olympics – attending basketball, soccer, volleyball events. We enjoyed concerts at Centennial Park and all the exciting things there. My children were young and they loved wearing Izzy shirts and hats! It brings a smile to my face remembering how much the joy that had seeing the Izzy mascot at one of the Olympic basketball games.

John Hall

July 25th, 2012
10:15 am

Brer Rabbit should have been our mascot for the Atlanta Olympics. The disgusting one we got honored no past, no heritage. As a native Atlantan I did not go to any of the “Games” and could have cared less……..we kept our State flag intact and refused to change it. For that I am proud of my fellow Southerners!

Yup

July 25th, 2012
10:16 am

“Outdim” is perfectly cromulent word.

heartofdarkness

July 25th, 2012
10:31 am

Izzy pretty well summed up the Olympic venture in 1996.

Road Scholar

July 25th, 2012
10:41 am

JSM: History is history. It is there whether you like it or not. I had always referred to it as the Civil War…until I took a history class in Georgia! Remember that this state is run by Repub carpetbaggers!

Kar

July 25th, 2012
10:45 am

Brer Rabbit? I can only imagine the outage at that one.

Izzy was apparently chosen to be as culturally blank as possible. Still stupid, but not a potential cultural weapon of mass destruction.

Statick

July 25th, 2012
10:48 am

Izzy “embarassed” Atlanta? Oh, Good Lord…

Izzy’s for kids.

Dee

July 25th, 2012
10:50 am

Really, now…the only people who complain about Olympic mascots are boylovers and sheepshaggers…

Olympic fan

July 25th, 2012
10:54 am

I loved the Atlanta Olympics- going to Centennial Park to enjoy the concerts and watch some of the activities that we could not get into on the big screens. The atmosphere (other than that awful night of the bombing) was wonderful. I volunteered at the Tennis Center and have great memories of seeing some of the medal ceremonies and meeting lots of interesting people.

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:00 am

Izzy was “Jerry Sandusky” before Jerry Sandusky was “Jerry Sandusky.”

So the London has Mascots

July 25th, 2012
11:00 am

Well compare to Izzy looks as good as china Mascot the two London macots look like 2 trogans for men that has a hole in both!

JSM

July 25th, 2012
11:01 am

lol Road….”took a history class in Georgia”. Is this the same GA that ranks near the bottom in education on a yearly basis? The one where the biggest system has major cheating scandals? Was your teacher a white southern lady teaching from southern ignorance or a minority teaching from a racial perspective? Hilarious…thanks for the laugh! Try reading some James Madison letters or another relevant source instead of southerners that think that the “March to the Sea” was worse than the Holocaust! hahahahaha…thanks again! Now, back to reality.

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:02 am

Izzy was like a Moderate running for President:

“It” tried to be EVERYTHING to EVERYBODY.

In doing so, it wound up being NOTHING to ANYONE.

Joe Mama

July 25th, 2012
11:02 am

They look like they’re members of The Residents.

JSM

July 25th, 2012
11:02 am

lol @ sheepshaggers…adding to my vocabulary now

Beer Drinker

July 25th, 2012
11:03 am

Bud World in Centennial Park was AWESOME!!

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:03 am

Ordering a Chick-fil-A Chicken Nugget Platter for my Olympic Opening Ceremony Viewing Party sounds pretty good to me.

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:06 am

The name “The Ol’ Stiff One-Eye” comes to mind when I see those London mascots.

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:07 am

One-Eye’d Willie?

Yelly Jelly

July 25th, 2012
11:08 am

Is the “Tug of War with Cyclops” a 2012 Olympic Event at which Wenlock & Mandeville will be appearing?

JSM

July 25th, 2012
11:16 am

wait…i couldnt resist this reply to “took a history class”.

Was it rather….elementary?

“I remember the class, it was just between recess and lunch.” (borrowed from Good Will Hunting)

Capt Jack

July 25th, 2012
11:19 am

No way to sugar coat it, they both suck in every conceiveable way.

Peace

July 25th, 2012
11:47 am

PJ……does everything have to be soooo political????…..its the “Olympics”

Toinuhfish

July 25th, 2012
11:47 am

JSM, Delta’s ready when you are…ps this is a post about mascots, not history.

Joe Mama

July 25th, 2012
11:59 am

Tweedledum and Tweedlestupid.

Sanjeev

July 25th, 2012
12:00 pm

Izzy – looked like a big blue sperm if you ask me.

El Whoppo

July 25th, 2012
12:07 pm

If this was picked as the best of all entered, I can’t imagine what the worst looked like.