2024 Olympic Games in Paris announces new mascots: red hats with eyes and legs
The 2024 Paris Olympics have revealed the new Olympic mascot, and it is the most French thing you can imagine. A hat.
The president of the Paris 2024 Olympic organizing committee, triple Olympic canoeing champion Tony Estanguet announced the new mascot for the games would be a symbol “known throughout the world” and is present “in art, in town halls, and on stamps.” A symbol that is “a very strong symbol for the French Republic” and an object that is “the symbol of freedom.”
Can you see it in your minds eye? No? Nor could I.
Apparently, the symbol that he refers to is the Phrygian cap.
What is a Phrygian cap, you say. Think of famous French headgear. No, not Napoleon’s tricorne. Nor the beret of so many French films.
Jacques Cousteau often wore a red cap based on the Phrygian cap. So does Papa Smurf. In the famous depiction of Marianne, the symbol of the French Republic, if you allow your gaze to wander past her exposed breast, you will notice that she, too, wears a red Phrygian cap.
What is a Phrygian cap?
In its design, it is simplicity indeed, being a soft, conical cap, with the apex bent over. Since antiquity, it has been associated with Persia and the eastern part of the Greek empire.
It is often seen throughout ancient depictions of Greeks and Persians in art and sculpture. Early Christian depictions of the three wise men always depict them wearing a Phrygian cap.
During the 1700s, it became associated, perhaps through conflation with the Roman pileus, as a symbol of manumission, or emancipation from slavery. The authors of the French Revolution certainly thought so, and since that time, it has been strongly associated with both the American and French revolutions as a symbol of a people throwing off their shackles to live free.
Olympic and Paralympic Phryges
The Paris 2024 organizers wanted to choose, rather than an animal mascot, an ideal. France, after all, is famously the champion of “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité”, all worthy ideals that are the hallmark of the modern world, even if they have become tarnished lately.
Both of the Phryges are anthropomorphized caps, with legs and eyes in the bleu, blanc, rouge theme of the French flag, and the only difference being that one of the legs on the Paralympic Phryge is a carbon fibre blade.
“The fact that the Paralympics mascot has a visible disability also sends a strong message: to promote inclusion,” explains Estanguet.
The motto expounded by the games is “Alone we go faster, but together we go further”.
For the English-speaking world, the image of the Phrygian cap is less celebrated than it is in the French-speaking world, and while you may have seen it everywhere throughout your life, it has likely never held any significance for you. But now that you know what it is, you will be amazed at how often you see it all around you.
How do you pronounce the word?
The official IOC website helpfully explains that their name is to be pronounced “fri-jee-uhs”. A trick is to say “fridge” like refrigerator, the a long E and an “uh”.
Mascots can be big business for organizing cities, with many of the past games selling millions of toys to festive games attendees. But it can be a gamble as well, with 2012′s London Olympic Games nearly bankrupting British toymaker Hornby through disappointing sales of mascots Wenlock and Mandeville.
Julie Matikhine, brand manager of the Paris 2024 Games, says, “[Phyrges] is a mascot who embodies the French spirit. An ideal that carries the values of our country, a part of our history and a singular point of view on the world.” And what could say France more than that?