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Snow Leopard wins Olympic mascot race. So do Polar Bear and Hare

Snow Leopard wins Olympic mascot race. So do Polar Bear and Hare
Snow Leopard, Polar Bear and Hare: this cute trio have become the official mascots of the 2014 Winter Olympics which will be held in the Russian city of Sochi. Also, Fire Boy and Snow Girl have become the mascots of 2014 Winter Para-Olympics.

Russians cast their votes in a televised show on Saturday and after an emotional anticipation the results were announced. Snow Leopard was the absolute winner in the competition, followed by Polar Bear with 18 per cent of the votes and Hare which took 16 per cent of Russian’s voices. The decision to have three mascots was announced by Dmitry Chernyshenko, Head of Sochi Organizing committee, at the end of the show.

The final competition was preceded by a tough selection process.The elections for the Olympic mascot started with hundreds of ideas. Eventually it all came down to the top ten. Among the entries were two bears, Father Frost, a snow leopard and the mayor of Sochi's personal favorite – a dolphin on skis.A couple of the candidates reflect a famous Russian stereotype, with bears – brown and polar – making the final shortlist. It brings back fond memories of Misha the Bear, the Mascot for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, who remains an icon in Russia.But his creator, Viktor Chizhikov, says it was not easy for Misha to become a legend.“I had a call from the organizing committee. They said: your bear has just been approved by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. So I imagined how scared the poor creature was, passing that test," Viktor Chizhikov says.A special hotline was set up in Sochi to answer all kinds of questions about the 2014 Winter Games, and right now mascots are one of the hottest topics."Our callers are people from all walks of life. Many of them are locals who would like to support their city's symbols. One of the mascots, for instance, represents the Black Sea, the snow, and the mountains," says Tatyana Strakhova, Head of Sochi’s Olympic information center.This time it is up to the public to decide on the mascot. Although the top ten was selected by a special jury consisting of celebrities, entrepreneurs and politicians, the winner will be chosen by the people of Russia during a televised vote.Sochi children wish for the snow leopard to become the symbol which sums up Sochi to the world. The children were allowed to decorate a statue of the leopard in one of the city's parks to show their support for a species under threat.There are only four snow leopards living in Sochi's wildlife reserve. But drawings of these animals have appeared in dozens of entries in the national contest to find a mascot for the 2014 Winter Games in southern Russia.With all sorts of cute and cuddly contenders, it could prove hard to pick a winner.  And perhaps the most delicate part for Russians is to find among them the right character, a mascot capable of following in the paw prints of Misha the Bear.

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