2008 Paralympic mascot Funiu

Things are finally approaching normalcy again in the capital city after the years of build up to the Olympics.  Many are complaining about post-Olympic depression, which often seems genuine enough.  Still others are jubilant about the cessation of invasive searches, including metal detectors and dog sniffers, just to go into their office buildings.  Well, for those who just can’t get over Olympic withdrawal, there is hope… the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games are only 5 days away!  Running from September 6-17, 2008, the Paralympic games should offer plenty of excitement for spectators worldwide, with fewer of the security hassles and smaller crowds to contend with than the Olympic games.

When I volunteered for the Olympic and Paralympic winter games in 2002, I was trained as a dedicated assistant for the Olympic games, and was really looking forward to cozying up to some influential Japanese hotshots, as my proficiency in the language and knowledge of the culture had landed me perhaps the most enjoyable gig for a volunteer.  Unfortunately, with the 9/11 attacks and subsequent cancellation of attendance by most of the visiting Japanese VIPs, my opportunity literally went up in smoke.  My experience volunteering for the 2002 Paralympic games then proved altogether more satisfying than I could have imagined.  Rather than visiting fancy restaurants and clubs with big-spending hotshots, I was assigned to drive a truck; ironically, transporting the sledge hockey equipment for the Japanese team.  As I drove the equipment from the airport to the coliseum I remember being impressed that they would trust me with such a task, and it occurred to me how other individuals also possessed the ability, if they perversely chose to act upon them, to really mess things up in a big way.  This far less ego-gratifying, indeed quite humbling experience helped me go on to really appreciate the Paralympic games, and I attended far more events than I might otherwise have.  Each of the athletes has had to overcome considerable challenges, no less formidable, and often more so, than the Olympic contenders.  For those who attend the events, I guarantee a moving experience.

Yesterday, after eating at the newly re-opened Kro’s Nest, in the shadow of the Worker’s Stadium, a major Olympic venue, which had thus led to the temporary closure of Kro’s in the first place, my kids were momentarily mesmerized by the playful antics of the Funiu on the stadium big screen.  I mean… literally mesmerized.  I yelled at them from across the parking lot in an attempt to drag their attention away from the gargantuan TV screen at the top of the stadium, but they stood transfixed until the introductory cartoon was over and they visibly regained their senses.  Ellie then ran up and told me she now wants a Funiu… which is how I learned the name.  I had commented to my friend Dan, who was patiently observing the loss of faculties as the children’s minds were momentarily seized by the mammoth marketing device, that the color scheme of the Funiu is far more Chinese, and if the Olympic ring colors hadn’t been pre-ordained, this is probably more what the Fuwa would have looked like.  Very cute, and obviously designed by the same folks… and only one!

So, for all those who have not yet got their fill of the mascot shopping extravaganza… Never fear!! Funiu is here!!


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