Why Olympians Are Getting Stuffed Tigers Instead Of Medals

What do you think of the Olympic mascot?

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Surprises abound during the Olympic Games. From come-from-behind victories to heartwarming tales of perseverance, there’s plenty to keep us glued to our screens throughout the competition.

One surprise, however, has baffled us all. Medalists are receiving plush tigers instead of gold, silver and bronze medals in ceremonies immediately following their events. Unfazed, the Olympic champions accept the toys with big smiles and raise them to the sky.

Medal Moment

Don’t worry, this is just the beginning. The top three will receive their hard-earned hardware in nightly medal ceremonies for all the winners of the day.

Justine Dufour-Lapointe Perrine Laffont pyeongchang photo
Getty Images | Cameron Spencer

The toy giveaway actually began in Rio de Janeiro during the Summer Olympic Games in 2016. Organizers of the Rio games deemed the traditional flower bouquets unsustainable and nixed them for plastic mascot replicas. In previous Winter Games, athletes received flowers during the ceremony immediately following their event.

Eye Of The Tiger

Pyeongchang has followed Rio’s example, and medalists now receive this stuffed keepsake, which is modeled after Soohorang, the mascot of the games. Each toy is adorned with a hat and a paper flower.

The organizers introduced the adorable mascot in 2016. The tiger is especially meaningful for the host nation. The name comes from “Sooho,” the Korean word for protection, and “ho-rang-i,” Korean for tiger.

pyeongchang Soohorang photo
Getty Images | Dan Mullan

A well-known character from Korean folk tales, the animal symbolizes trust, strength and protection. It was a guardian that helped protect the country and its people. In addition, the white color symbolizes the snow and ice necessary for winter sports.

“It’s a beautiful animal, strongly associated with Korean culture,” Gunilla Lindberg, chair of the IOC Coordination Commission for the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games, shared in a statement. “It also symbolizes the close link between the Olympic Winter Games and the natural environment. I’m sure the new mascot will be very popular with Koreans and people around the world.”

pyeongchang Soohorang photo
Getty Images | Matthias Hangst

She was right on. Everyone wants to get their hands on one. And you can, even if you’re not an Olympian. The official site of the games had plush mascots starting at $23. Naturally, they’re available on Ebay and Amazon for a price, of course.

How much would you pay for one of these adorable plush tigers?