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Beijing finally unveils its Olympic mascots - five Fuwa
Updated: 2005-11-11 20:28

After years of fierce lobbying and months of secrecy, Beijing finally announced its mascots for the 2008 Olympics - five Fuwas based on giant panda, Tibetan antelope and others, opening a marketing blitz that is expected to reap record profits.

An elaborate, nationally televised gala Friday evening to mark the 1,000-day countdown until the Games was held in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square, where a countdown clock began to tick. 

Amid the hoopla, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was present and unveiled the mascots.

A plethora of real and mythic creatures were among the candidates were considered by Chinese leaders, Olympic officials and design specialists over the past year.

The choice, the subject of lively media speculation for months, has been a secret since it was finalized three months ago, sealed by confidentiality agreements.

At stake for China is one of the most marketable symbols in the Olympics -- a symbol that stands to generate significant revenues and public support for the Beijing Games, which will cost an estimated US$38 billion.

Sales of licensed products, including those with the mascot, have brought in about US$300 million at the Sydney and Athens Olympics. Host cities keep 10 to 15 percent of the royalties, helping to defray the costs of staging the Games.

Officials with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games say they expect sales of such products to be higher still.

On Saturday, postage stamps and more than 300 other licensed products of the mascots go on sale at 188 authorized venues across the country, widening a product line of T-shirts, caps, pens and bags bearing the 2008 Games logo, according to Olympic officials.

To capture an entire range of consumers, the mascot products will range from fluorescent pens for 8 yuan to souvenirs made from precious metals selling for tens of thousands of yuan (thousands of dollars).

Beyond the sales expectations, China has tried to use the mascot-selection process to involve communities far from Beijing. On hand for the unveiling at the Workers Gymnasium in eastern Beijing were 100 children "ambassadors" from western provinces.

Organizers of the Games threw open the selection process, inviting suggestions from the public and local governments, and many of the latter lobbied fiercely for the honor.

Sichuan province spent 2 million yuan (US$240,000) in public and privately donated funds on promoting the panda.

Altogether, BOCOG has received 662 suggestions. Organizers whittled those down to 56, which were then put to a ten-member expert committee of designers, which in turn selected six candidates. Organizers and senior leaders then chose one, and the International Olympic Committee approved the choice in August.

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