Behind the scenes - How Beijing 2022 mascots come into life

2019-09-18 02:28:47 GMT2019-09-18 10:28:47(Beijing Time) Xinhua English
The mascot of Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bing Dwen Dwen (L) and that of the 2022 Paralympics Shuey Rhon Rhon are present during the launch ceremony in Beijing on Sept. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Shen Hong) The mascot of Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bing Dwen Dwen (L) and that of the 2022 Paralympics Shuey Rhon Rhon are present during the launch ceremony in Beijing on Sept. 17, 2019. (Xinhua/Shen Hong)

BEIJING, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- The mascots for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, panda "Bing Dwen Dwen" and red lantern "Shuey Rhon Rhon", were unveiled together here on Tuesday, prompting another surge of public enthusiasm towards Beijing 2022.

Since August 8, 2018, when the global call for mascot design proposals started, it has taken more than a year for the general public, the designing group and the 18-member review panel of the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee to put together their creative minds to finalize the mascot design, which combines traditional Chinese characteristics and futuristic elements to represent the aspirations of Chinese people ahead of the country's first-ever Olympic Winter Games.

"Today is an important step on Beijing's historic journey as the first city in Olympic history to host both summer and winter editions of the Olympic Games. The mascot will be a wonderful ambassador for both China and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games," said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) president Andrew Parsons added that "the mascot is a message of the future to the future generation of Chinese people who will be inspired by the amazing faith of the Paralympic athletes."

FROM TRADITION, TOWARDS THE FUTURE

"The two mascots are a combination of inheritance and innovation, culture and technology, as well as the Olympic Games and daily life," said Gao Tian, vice director of the culture and ceremonies department of the organizing committee.

The mascot for the 2022 Olympic Games, "Bing Dwen Dwen", is a panda inside an ice shell stylized as a sports helmet, making the animal appear more athletic. A series of colored floating lines around its head resemble tracks on an ice rink, a reference to Beijing's National Speed Skating Oval, known as the "Ice Ribbon". The colorful lines are also a nod to the implementation of ultra-fast 5G technology.

Moreover, the lines also serve as an energy ring that empowers the panda. Resembling an astronaut in a space suit, "Bing Dwen Dwen" is designed to be a winter sports expert coming from the future, a perfect blend of winter sports and modern technology. The ice shell also leaves space for various additional designs in future.

As for its name, "Bing" means "ice" in Chinese, which is a symbol of purity and toughness, in line with the spirit of the Olympics. "Dwen" carries the meaning of stocky and cute, which are traits of pandas, and repetition is a common way to show intimacy in Chinese culture, especially to children. Together, "Bing Dwen Dwen" is a representation of physical strength, mental toughness and the spirit of Olympic Movement.

The mascot for Paralympic Games, "Shuey Rhon Rhon", resembles an iconic Chinese red lantern commonly seen on doors and streets during the Chinese New Year, which in 2022 falls three days ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Winter Games. It is imbued with the meanings of happiness, harvest, affluence and brightness and the crown-like "Ruyi" on its head is an auspicious scepter in Chinese culture.

Decorations on "Shuey Rhon Rhon" are paper-cuttings of two pigeons widely seen in Beijing, with their interval forming the shape of the Temple of Heaven, one of the host city's most famous landmarks. The blush on its cheeks is made of snow, symbolizing a good harvest next year, and its red color adds festivity.

Being the first-ever luminous mascot in Olympic history, "Shuey Rhon Rhon" conveys the message of lighting up people's dreams and symbolizing friendship, courage and persistence. It is also a representation of the unbending will and fighting spirit of the Paralympic athletes.

"Shuey" means "snow" in Chinese and "Rhon Rhon" are two different Chinese characters with the same pronunciation, meaning inclusiveness and integration respectively. The name symbolizes China's friendly gesture towards harmony and exchanges between different cultures, and building a community with a shared future.

"The mascots draw inspiration from China's rich culture, at the same time reflecting the Chinese philosophy of communicating with the world and reaching out to the future," explained reviewing panel member Zhang Yiwu, professor of the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Peking University.

WIDE PARTICIPATION AND TOUGH CHOICES

The Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee launched a global appeal for mascot design proposals on August 8, 2018 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Beijing's hosting of the 2008 Olympic Games.

Apart from calling for designs, the organizing committee also saw it as a chance to promote winter sports and the Olympic Movement across the country.

A two-month project themed "Beijing 2022 Mascots In My Eyes" was launched to encourage elementary and secondary school students across China to create their own mascots for the Games in art classes. Nearly 15 million students from 45,000 schools were involved in the project, and their designs were valuable references in making the mascot more appealing.

"When we visited schools in northern China, we could tell they were familiar with winter sports and had a great passion for them. When we visited southern cities, students there came with curiosity and listened attentively to us. The contrast left a deep impression on me, but all of them were happily involved in the designs," recalled Piao Xuedong, the organizing committee's marketing director.

As the design submission period concluded on October 31, 2018, a total of 5,816 designs were spread over 100 long desks in a room inside the Beijing 2022 headquarters at Shougang Industrial Park. The proposals were from enthusiastic participants from all across China and 35 countries and regions worldwide, with designers as young as three and as old as 75.

Some of the designs were based on animals such as Milu deer, pandas and tigers, some drew inspirations from traditional Chinese elements like dragon dancing and the Great Wall. There were also snow- and ice-related suggestions and futuristic proposals.

According to the organizing committee, the number of design proposals was nearly three times that of the 2008 Olympic Games - giving the reviewing panel a pleasant headache in their choice of design.

The panel, comprised of 17 experts from different fields including artistic design, anime, children's literature and marketing, held a two-day evaluation of all the proposals.

"A lot of diversity from little children to professionals. Everybody has given proposals and interpretations of what could be the Beijing 2022 mascot. It's interesting to see the different directions people have taken," commented panel member Alexis Georgacopoulos, Director of the University of Art and Design in Lausanne.

They were asked to choose 100 designs on January 7, 2019 and then rate and shortlist ten the following day.

Although the organizing committee conducted an online survey to discover public preference of the number, color and personality of the mascots, finding the best ten designs out of the 5,816 proposals was no easy feat.

"A great number of the designs were quite creative, and that really amazed me," said Lin Cunzhen, panel member and designer of the emblems for Beijing 2022.

Assessing the designs from different perspectives, panel members needed an additional round of votes to choose the ten best proposals, and the design entered a new phase.

THE COUNTLESS MODIFICATIONS

It might be hard to imagine how designers from Guangzhou, where it hardly snows, managed to create a mascot for the Olympic Winter Games. But a team from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts did just that.

"I told my students that the fact they have never seen real snow actually frees their creativity and imagination," recalled team leader Cao Xue, director of the Visual Art department.

In fact, three of the shortlisted ten designs came from this team. One of them was the original design of "Bing Dwen Dwen", which started out life as a "bingtanghulu". The traditional Beijing snack consists of hawthorn coated in a hardened sugar syrup, and that's where the ice shell of "Bing Dwen Dwen" came from.

Being informed by the organizing committee on January 25 that their works were shortlisted for further revision, Cao quickly established an elite designing team and began a careful modification process which chief designer Liu Pingyun later described as "purgatory".

Liu was pursuing a doctorate degree in Macao when he received the call from director Cao. For nearly a month, he had to travel daily between Macao and Guangzhou and worked until midnight.

However, the most difficult part was always figuring out the ideal design.

Every week, Liu and some of his team members traveled to Beijing to submit their refined designs to an expert panel of the organizing committee in person to ensure confidentiality, and were given advice for further modification.

As suggested, the ice shell was retained from their original design, but the inside changed from time to time from a bingtanghulu to a dumpling, and later to a tiger, a deer, and even a rabbit.

Liu had 21 folders for mascot design, which means they went through 21 major refinements, with each of the folders containing hundreds of drafts.

After countless adjustments on characters, gestures, decorations, facial expressions and captions, in April, the design team and the expert panel finally decided the mascot would be a panda.

Then came a new problem.

"The design must be unique, and related to the Winter Games," said Jiang Xiaoyu, leader of the expert panel. "It's hard, but as long as we have an innovative design, the mascot is certain to have its own charm, because the panda is internationally known as a symbol of China. We don't need to explain anything to have it understood across different cultures."

True, but how?

The Guangzhou team formed a special group to collect all the panda designs they could find, and then stuck them on the walls of their workshop, trying to find inspiration and avoid similarity.

The ice shell was indeed a distinct feature, "but how can we tell it's the mascot for the Winter Olympics, and not for other events?" Lin Cunzhen pointed out.

After another month of sleepless nights and numerous brainstorm sessions by the design team and the expert panel, a sparkling idea finally came up: "Can we add the element of the Ice Ribbon?"

Applied as colorful floating lines, the proposal added a futuristic dimension to the mascot and made the design more relevant to the Winter Games.

"It was a huge breakthrough. The mascot took on a brand new look!" Liu recalled with excitement.

Going through the bottleneck, there were still adjustments to be made, but the Guangzhou team knew they were on the right track.

LIGHTEN THE LANTERN

At the same time, another team from the Jilin College of the Arts was racking their brains over a design which was later chosen as the mascot for the Paralympic Games, "Shuey Rhon Rhon".

For Jiang Yufan, the student who drew the original sketch, the red lanterns along the streets during the Spring Festival always gave her a sweet memory of her hometown, a small county in the Lesser Khingan mountain regions in northwest China's Heilongjiang Province.

That's when her professor suggested she switch from Muli deer to another animal because there were so many similar designs by her fellow schoolmates.

Jiang had only three days before the deadline, but she just managed to squeeze in her submission.

"I was totally at loss when my professor told me my design was shortlisted. I thought she was joking," Jiang recalled.

Jiang's work was far from perfect, however, and the expert panel advised the Jilin team to keep the concept of the red lantern and come up with a new design.

Time was very limited.

With firm support from the college, president Guo Chunfang soon gathered an elite team of professors and students to work together.

Summoned back to school during the winter vacation, the team members only allowed themselves two days off during the Spring Festival without burying their heads in the design revision.

As the red lantern is not a living creature, the question of how to make it lively and imbue it with cultural significance proved the most difficult task facing the team.

To solve the puzzle, chief designer Wu Yibo traveled between Changchun and Beijing over 30 times to submit his side's refined works and exchange ideas with the expert panel.

They even hung a real lantern in their workshop to help with their design, and threw snowballs on the wall to see how the blush on Shuey Rhon Rhon's cheek could be more natural.

After vigorous debate and discussion, the elements of pigeons, the Temple of Heaven and the Great Wall were added on the lantern to represent the host city of Beijing as well as "Ruyi", which is the shape of the ski jump venue for the 2022 Games, to emphasize Beijing's legacy as the first city to host both Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Among the Jilin team was professor Jiao Qiang, who had to sacrifice his winter and summer vacation and those of his daughter, who stayed by his side at the workshop all the time because no one else could help to look after her.

"I saw a set of memes designed by the Jilin team showing Shuey Rhon Rhon hugging a snowman and I was very impressed. Later I came to know that it was drawn by Jiao Qiang, and that he was thinking of his daughter when he came up with the design," Lin Cunzhen said.

And the hard work of both teams finally paid off.

The Beijing 2022 organizing committee consulted representatives from all walks of life, the IOC and IPC, and conducted a survey in an elementary school. After both designs passed duplicate checking, the final decision was submitted to the IOC and IPC, and announced to the two teams on August 21.

"At that moment, all the scenes over the past seven months flashed through my mind like a movie," said Cao, who burst into tears upon hearing the news.

"We thought we were called here to receive advice, as we had been so many times before. When the result was announced, we were all surprised and were very emotional. Our dream suddenly came true at that moment," Guo said.

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