Free Mukmuk: the 'other' Olympic mascot
Join our campaign to make him a real, live mascot instead of a virtual sidekick
Jeff Lee, Vancouver Sun
Published: Monday, February 11, 2008
Pity Mukmuk. While his friends Quatchi, Miga and Sumi gallivant off everywhere entertaining children in the lead up to the 2010 Olympic Games, Mukmuk the marmot is left to pick up the trash and tag along behind.
For those of you who don't know poor Mukmuk, he's the virtual reality sidekick to the Vancouver 2010 mascots. He lives mainly in cyberspace. Well, cyber jail, really, because he doesn't get out much.
Unlike his friends, who are real mascots, Mukmuk's parents, the Vancouver Organizing Committee, see him as a pint-sized tag end whose place in the Games seems akin to an afterthought. The end of a sentence. Or, as they say in their literature: "Sidekick to the Vancouver 2010 Mascots."
Sort of like "secretary to the president" or "official sweeper upper."
Instead of being the Vancouver Island marmot that he is, Mukmuk has become something of a gofer. As in "Hey Mukmuk, go for this" or "go for that." And the pity is, he's the only real animal of the lot.
As a Vancouver Island marmot, he's one of only an estimated 205 that have survived wolves, eagles and loggers. That makes him almost as rare as Quatchi the Sasquatch, Miga the "sea bear" and Sumi, the thunderbird-like "animal guardian spirit."
I'll bet many of you thought when Vanoc unveiled the mascots, "hey, what about that little guy at the end? Why isn't he also going to be made into a toy?"
So far, all we've seen of the little furball is a cameo appearance in the video introduction of the Three Amigos. He's the poor sod shivering on a mountain top, skiing down to Whistler on a para-ski thrown to him by Sumi, and handing the hot cocoa-drinking mascots an invitation to attend the 2010 Games. He's had to bring up the rear every time The Officials head off anywhere, holding up a "We're No. 1" mitt.
The only thing he's missing is the broom with which to sweep up the confetti at the end of the tickertape parade. Oh, and he takes out the recycling. Vanoc gave him the job of throwing around boxes of recyclables like curling rocks in its interactive game "Operation Recycle" while the headliners lounge on the sidelines.
He doesn't get any residuals or side benefits. While his bigger friends have their images plastered on everything from clothing to pins, and are created in effigy by the thousands, little Mukmuk doesn't get his face on so much as a key chain fob.
His berry orange and blue toque isn't available even in size super small.
The reality of it is that Vanoc doesn't know who Mukmuk really is. Oh, they have an idea, that's for sure. Here's what they say they know about him: "Mukmuk is a small and friendly Vancouver Island marmot who always supports and cheers loudly for his friends during games and races. When he is not hibernating or sunbathing on rocks and logs, he enjoys getting out to meet other types of marmots and animals. In fact, this is how he became friends with the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic mascots."
They also say his hobbies are "eating, burrowing, eating, making friends, eating."
Not a ringing endorsement of his capabilities, I'd say.
I think Vanoc has an idea Mukmuk might represent the Olympic sidekick in all of us. I think he's got a lot more going for him. He is, after all, a perfect ambassador for one of the most endangered REAL animals on the face of the Earth.
I'm not alone in my feelings Vanoc has missed an opportunity for Mukmuk to be more than the Olympic janitor. Back in November, Judith Millar of Nanaimo wrote to us saying she'd support a campaign to make Mukmuk more than a cyber sidekick.
"Poor Mukmuk. Our little islander didn't even get pictured alongside his mascot buddies in some newspapers, despite looking fetching in his knitted toque. (Thankfully, The Sun gave him his due, so he wouldn't get his furry little shirt in a knot.)"
Others have talked about starting a petition to get Mukmuk full mascot status. Well, at The Vancouver Sun we're willing to say it's time to free Mukmuk from cyberspace. We tend to root for underdogs, but in this case, we'll settle for a marmot. But not a "gofer." We're willing to take up his cause in front of Vanoc, and tell them he's crying out for full mascot service. As he says in our campaign literature, "I'm a marmot, not a gofer."
But here's the rub. Even I'm not really sure what he is. I mean, I instinctively like him. I know he's got great things going for him. But what does he like to do? What would he like to do if he was a full-fledged mascot? Where does he live, and with whom? What's his favorite sport? Does he have any fears (like flying or getting caught while sunning himself on a log?) Apart from Quatchi, Miga and Sumi, who are his friends? Does he have any stories of his own he wants to tell?
We won't call this a contest, but we'd like children and adults alike to write to us with their ideas of who Mukmuk really is, and why he should be a full-furred mascot. (Or if not, why not.)
Send us your drawings, your ideas, your thoughts. We'll publish some of them, and send on to Vanoc anything of merit.
I'll be writing and blogging on this regularly, publishing your ideas.