Published On: Jul 16 2012 10:04:46 AM CDTUpdated On: Feb 12 2014 11:00:00 PM CST
With the 2016 Summer Olympics nearly here, look back at four decades of Olympic mascots and their meanings, starting with Vinicius, the mascot for the Rio Games. Vinicius is a representation of Brazilian wildlife, including "the agility of cat, the balancing skills of a monkey and the grace of a bird," and symbolizes the "energy and joie de vivre exuded by the Brazilian people." Vinicius was named after famed Brazilian artist Vinicius de Moraes.
2014 Winter Olympics (Sochi, Russia) - The Leopard, The Hare and The Polar Bear were meant to represent the three places on the Olympic podium. They were selected through a contest that drew more than 24,000 submissions, which were narrowed down to 10 finalists that were voted on by the Russian public.
2012 Summer Olympics (London) -- Wenlock and Mandeville, drops of steel with cameras for eyes representing the UK's start of the Industrial Revolution.
2010 Winter Olympics (Vancouver) -- Quatchi, the sasquatch, Miga, the mythical sea bear, and Sumi, an animal garden spirit. All are part of Canadian folklore and mythology.
2008 Summer Olympics (Beijing) -- The Fuwa: Beibei, Jingjing, Huanhuan, Yingying and Nini. The names form the Chinese phrase "Beijing welcomes you." Each represents an Olympic ring and Feng Shui element.
2006 Winter Olympics (Turin) -- Neve and Gliz, a humanized snowball and ice cube representing the characteristics of the Winter Games.
2004 Summer Olympics (Athens) -- Athena and Phevos, a brother and sister resembling ancient Greek dolls.
2002 Winter Olympics (Salt Lake City) -- Powder the snowshoe hare, Copper the coyote and Coal the American black bear. All three animals are native to Utah and named after natural resources important to the state's economy.
2000 Summer Olympics (Sydney) -- Syd the platypus, representing the environment and energy of Australians; Millie the echidna, representing the Millennium; and Olly the kookaburra, representing the Olympic spirit of generosity.
1998 Winter Olympics (Nagano) -- The Snowlets owls: Sukki, Nokki, Lekki and Tsukki, representing the four major islands of Japan.
1996 Summer Olympics (Atlanta) -- Izzy, an abstract figure that was the first computer-generated mascot.
1994 Winter Olympics (Lillehammer) -- Håkon and Kristin, two Norwegian children dressed in traditional Viking clothing.
1992 Summer Olympics (Barcelona) -- Cobi the Catalan sheep dog, drawn in the style of the Cubist art movement.
1992 Winter Olympics (Albertville) -- Magique the snow imp, representing the concept of dreams and imagination.
1988 Summer Olympics (Seoul) -- Hodori and Hosuni, two tiger cubs common in Korean legends.
1988 Winter Olympics (Calgary) -- Hidy and Howdy, two polar bears representing western Canadian hospitality.
1984 Summer Olympics (Los Angeles) -- Sam the bald eagle, symbol of the United States.
1984 Winter Olympics (Sarajevo) -- Vucko the little wolf, symbolizing the desire of humans to befriend animals.
1980 Summer Olympics (Moscow) -- Misha the bear cub. The bear was the national symbol of the former Soviet Union.
1980 Winter Olympics (Lake Placid) -- Roni the raccoon, named for the Adirondack mountains.
1976 Summer Olympics (Montreal) -- Amik the beaver, representing one of the national symbols of Canada.
1976 Winter Olympics (Innsbruck) -- Schneemann, a snowman representing the "Games of Simplicity."