The Olympic games have a long tradition of creating lovable smiley characters as game mascots . Each game season the hosting country introduced the world to its cuddly mascot of choice, often one that celebrated the spirit of sports and competition and inhabited elements of the hosting coutnry’s culture. Mascots are often designed to appeal to children, and monetize on merchandise. This year’s upcoming 2012 Olympic games in London are no different. Except that the chosen mascots, named Wenlcok and Manderville, are designed with some startlingly explicit references to the UK’s surveillance system.
London is notorious for being one of the first cities in the world to blanket itself with CCTV cameras. The tight-knit cordon of cameras and surveillance devices is often nicknamed ‘The Ring Of Steel’. It is also reported that in preparation of the 2012 Olympic games the city has tremendously increased the number surveillance devices scattered in the streets, and taken some other precautions against riots, terrorist attacks and social disorder.
It seems that London has chosen to highlight its all-seeing surveillance system by making it a dominant feature in the design of its Olympic mascots. Both Manderville and Wenlock sport one large camera-lens as an eye. In explaining the design, the eye is described as a camera that lets them “record everything”. The blatant symbolism is jarring for many. Privacy enthusiasts and activists are appalled by the celebration of surveillance. They claim that the new mascots present surveillance as cute and cuddly, and legitimize the breach of civilian privacy, even to young children. Despite, the vocal resentment many institutes and companies have embraced the new mascots. Toy figurines are sold around London, and McDonald’s will be giving the little camera-eyed creatures as Happy Meal presents.