No lions, but tigers, bears and 'Whatizits' for Olympic mascots

(RNN) - Everyone will keep an eye on Team USA during this year's Summer Games, but let's just hope this year's Olympic mascot isn't watching us with its eye.

Eye. Singular. Just one big, old peeper.

Wenlock, the official mascot for this year's Summer Games is a sleek, futuristic, one-eyed, digital-looking creature like something straight out of a video game.

Perhaps London didn't want to turn to something stereotypical like Harry Potter with bad teeth, but there is so much British history from which a recognizable mascot could be pulled.

Mascots have become more abstract through the years, becoming more symbolic in their symbolism than actually being a symbol of the country.

And let's just face it, mascots are a brilliant marketing idea.

Mascots, however, are a relatively recent addition to the Games. They were meant to create more excitement and spirit.

Here's a look at all summer Olympic Games mascots through the years.

WALDI – 1972, Munich, Germany

The first official Olympic mascot was Waldi the dachshund. The rainbow-striped Waldi was created for the 1972 Munich Games and modeled after the longhaired breed of dog, Cherie von Birkenhof.

During the Games that year, the marathon route was constructed in the shape of Waldi.

AMIK – 1976, Montreal, Canada

Amik is a beaver that symbolizes hard work - seems perfect for Canada - and the name means beaver in the Algonquian language.

MISHA – 1980, Moscow, USSR

Victor Chizikov, an illustrator of children's books, drew more than 100 variations of Misha, the mascot for the 1980 Games. Chizikov took six months to perfect his creation, which appeared on pins, as a stuffed animal, porcelain, rubber, in plastic, metal and wood.

SAM – 1984, Los Angeles

What could be more American than an eagle named Sam (as in Uncle) holding a torch (similar to the Statue of Liberty's torch), sporting a fancy red, white and blue hat? One that was designed by Walt Disney Productions.

This was the first year mascots really started to appeal to children, and the Olympics began commercially licensing them.

HODORI – 1988, Seoul, South Korea

Hodori was designed to be a friendly tiger, which pops up in many South Korean legends and tales. The friendly tiger's name was also chosen by the public, with "Ho" meaning tiger in Korean. Hodori wears a hat from a traditional farm dance.

Hosuni, the female counterpart to Hodori, wasn't as popular with the crowd.

Kellogg's thought Hodori was a little too familiar, almost filing a lawsuit because he looked too much like Tony the Tiger.

COBI – 1992, Barcelona, Spain

This is the year mascots started to get a little off-beat. Spain gave us Cobi in 1992, an avant-garde dog – Picasso would be proud. Since Cobi, mascots have been based on people, animals or mythical and imaginary creatures.

At first, Cobi was vilified by Spaniards, who just needed time to get to know the playful dog, and now they love him.

Maybe he can help them fix their debt crisis.

IZZY – 1996, Atlanta

Cobi opened the door for off-beat mascots, and Atlanta ran right through it with lightning bolts blazing in the form of Izzy.

The name Izzy comes from "Whatizit," because that's what everyone was asking: What the heck is this thing? Well, it's Izzy, whose appearance changed from Barcelona's closing ceremonies to Atlanta's opening ceremonies. Izzy got a mouth, a nose, stars in his eyes, and lifted weights to get some muscle on his legs.

SYD, OLLY, AND MILLIE – 2000, Sydney, Australia

In a return to less-abstract mascots, Sydney offered up Olly, a kookaburra; Syd, a platypus; and Millie, an echidna - which are all native animals to Australia.

More symbolism was attached to these three during this year. Olly's name comes from the word Olympic and he represents the Olympic spirit of generosity. Syd's name is derived from Sydney, where the Games were held, and his name symbolizes the environment and the energy of the Australian people. Millie is a wiz with technology and gets her name form Millennium.

Good thing the Y2K bug was fixed.

PHEVOS AND ATHENA – 2004, Athens, Greece

The two are named after Greek gods. Phevos is the god of light and music, also known as Apollo, and his sister Athena is the goddess of wisdom and Athens' name sake.

The organizers wanted to link ancient Greece and its history of the games to the modern games. The mascots' design was inspired by ancient Greek dolls.

FUWA – 2008, Beijing, China

There are five mascots that make up the Fuwa; Beibei, the fish; Jingjing the panda; Huanhuan, the Olympic flame; Yingying, the Tibetan antelope; and Nini, the swallow.

China uses symbols to spread blessings, and each Fuwa also represented a blessing China wanted to spread to the children of the world. Beibei represents prosperity; Jingjing represents the blessing of happiness; Huanhuan is the blessing of passion; Yingying represents health; and Nini is luck.

WENLOCK – 2012, London, England

Wenlock gets his name from Much Wenlock in Shropshire – a town in England where the "Much Wenlock Games" were held. He was created from the last drop of British steel used for the stadium in London and represents England's industrial history.

His head is the shape of the Olympic Stadium roof, and the three points on his head symbolize the three places on the podium where winning athletes receive their medals.

His big, big, big eye is a camera lens "capturing everything he sees," according the International Olympic Committee. True, London is a city where there are hundreds of surveillance cameras, but now the mascot is watching us.

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