What exactly does that Paris Olympic mascot look like? The French have decided – and it is not a cheery hat | Emma Beddington

The joyfully bizarre – and saucy – phryges have got even me excited about a month of sport

The Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics mascots have been unveiled and boy, they do not disappoint. Les phryges are modelled on the revolutionary red Phyrgian bonnet, the one Liberty wears in the famous Delacroix painting. There’s a “We might cut your head off” edginess to the phryges that is wonderfully at odds with their “immaculate smiles” and “big blue eyes that end in [revolutionary] rosettes”, as Radio France has described them. I have never seen more cheerful hats.

France is united in seeing them differently: with their “curved protuberance at the front” (Radio France again), social media is convinced they look like giant clitorises. Admittedly, a composite image of French judo champion Teddy Riner with a phryge compounds this impression. The pair of them look distinctly … post-coital? The cartoon phryge, flaunting its curved protuberance, has its tongue poking out and is sweating; Riner appears to be tenderly cupping one of its little feet. They both look very happy: the heart has its reasons, as Pascal said.

Hein ? pic.twitter.com/OwlfyshuBq

— @benjamin_t__@mastodon.social 🦦 (@benjamin_t__) November 15, 2022

PR agency fever dream, or inadvertent insight into the psyche of an organisation or place, the world of mascots is a joyfully bizarre one. The drily factual Mondo Mascots Twitter account, which collates the oddest Japanese examples, is the only thing keeping me on the hell site now.

It’s impossible to pick favourites, but recent gems include “a snowboarding Bernese mountain dog with a tub and a soap dispenser on its head”, “an egg enjoying a dip in a hot spring” and “a friendly enlarged thyroid gland perched on a hardened artery full of plaque”. Then there are the images of mascots getting stuck in doorways or observing a minute’s silence: swans, Wombles and bunnies, heads solemnly bowed, arms (or wings) clasped. I only have to imagine David Shrigley’s glowering, monobrowed Partick Thistle mascot Kingsley to start laughing.

The phryges’ sexy, murderous energy is the only thing that could make me excited for a month of sport. The only problem is the €34.90 (£30.40) plush version will apparently be made in China – not very ecological or radical. I’m calling for sustainably sourced, free phryges for all.

  • Emma Beddington is a Guardian columnist


Emma Beddington

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