If Chloe Kim goes onto a career that features multiple medals won over multiple Olympics, it’ll be easy for her to pick out the pictures from her first gold medal in PyeongChang.
One of the main clues will be the small tiger she held over her head while posing after her win in the women’s halfpipe. The stuffed keepsake modeled after PyeongChang mascot Sooharang has been a ubiquitous presence at these games, greeting all three medal winners with a pleasant smile after each event.
So why are medal winners waving around tiger toys for the cameras instead of biting into medals?
The Winter Olympics are small enough that a medal ceremony is held each night for all events in a central location. What you’re seeing with the toys is the traditional flowers ceremony, held right after the event to give the media a good photo opp.
Speaking of flowers, the toys were designed to replace them. The organizers for the 2016 Rio Games got rid of the flowers in an effort to present a more sustainable Olympics and PyeongChang officials followed their lead with something that is a bit more permanent (though probably won’t decompose as fast as flowers if it’s ever pitched into a landfill.)
But look at that little face: Who’d ever want to dispose of sweet Sooharang?
This being the Olympics, you don’t have to win a medal to get one. The official site of the games had plain dolls for sale for 25,000 KRW ($23 US) and dolls wearing traditional Korean dress for about four times that.
Alas, they’re now all sold out, which means you’ll have to resort to a back channel like eBay and be prepared to pay up. With great advertising and top endorsers like Kim and Red Gerard, the popularity of the replica Sooharangs has created an Olympics for stuffed animal speculators, too.
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