In Russia, accusations of corruption taint even Olympics mascot selection
In weekend voting for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics mascot, Russians chose a wide-eyed, snowboard-toting leopard. But many claim the vote was rigged to ensure Prime Minister Putin's favored mascot would win.
The biggest controversy gripping Russia today isn't explicitly political, but something Russians appear to get more passionate about – the choice of a mascot for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.Skip to next paragraph
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Charges of plagiarism, amateurism, and bad taste are flying, and some are even hinting that popular voting for the mascot may have been rigged to ensure the candidate backed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin would win.
It's not the sort of trouble the Sochi Winter Games needed, since they are already plagued by allegations of environmental recklessness and corruption as well as worries about deteriorating security in the northern Caucasus region.
In the first-ever open election for an Olympic mascot, more than 1.4 million Russians cast their votes by phone, text message, and e-mail over the weekend. On Monday, the Sochi Olympic Committee declared the winner to be a sleek, wide-eyed, snowboard-toting leopard that Mr. Putin had publicly named as his personal "symbolic choice."
Two runners-up – a plump polar bear and a petit bunny rabbit – will serve as auxiliary mascots, representing the "silver" and "bronze" positions on the Olympic podium, officials said.
"All top three characters will become the Olympic Winter Games mascots," Olympic chief Dmitry Chernyshenko said in a statement. "The mascots are the choice of our whole country and will remain in the history of the Olympic movement."
The mascots were selected from a short list of 11 designs, culled from more than 24,000 ideas submitted by the Russian public over the past year. The voting was kicked off by a TV marathon hosted by the chief of Russia's state-run Channel One, Konstantin Ernst.
Some viewers began to suspect that all was not above board when one popular contender, a stylized version of Grandfather Frost (the Russian Santa Claus) was suddenly withdrawn in mid-vote over what organizers called a "copyright issue."