Now that the torch has been set aflame, it’s time to meet the stars of the 2018 Winter Olympics, hosted this time around in PyeongChang, South Korea.
No, not the shirtless Tongan standard bearer and his greased pecs in the cold, but Soohorang and Bandabi, the official mascots of the Games.
These guys didn’t just manifest from the pure spirit of sportsmanship. In fact, the public at large began voting for prospective candidates back in 2014, and the winners weren’t given clearance until two years later.

Finally announced in June 2017 and proudly repping the ongoing festivities is Soohorang, a white tiger who represents Korea’s traditional animal guardian. He’ll be keeping a watchful eye over olympians, fans and staff alike, as ‘Soohoo’ means protection in Korean. And ‘rang’ not only comes from the Korean word for tiger, but pays homage to an old folk song from the province where things are going down, Gangwon. Soohorang is said to be a loyal friend with a blazing vigour for play and competition.

Stepping into the spotlight soon as the symbol of the 2018 Paralympics is an Asiatic black bear called Bandabi. This particular breed of bear is the noble emblem of the Gangwon Province and plays a role in ancient Korean foundation mythology. ‘Banda’ points to a word for the white half-moon marking found on Bandabi’s chest, while ‘bi’ toasts the physical and celebratory coming together of the events themselves. Bandabi is a native of the Korean Peninsula, and shows a strong will to succeed and support others.
Together they make a cartooney, feisty plush toy pair, and they seem happy to leave the clawing and ferociousness to the athletes. Life-size and prowling about the sports grounds, and already transformed into emojis, they’re sure to be the champions of selling commemorative merchandise. Game on!
AJ Kim

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