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New year rings in, Monkey King up for Olympic mascot
( 2004-01-19 16:18) (Xinhua)

As Chinese are busy preparing to celebrate the coming Lunar New Year, which will be the Year of Monkey, the debate on whether the legendary figure Monkey King should become the mascot of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is heating up.

Although the official selection of the mascot is still months away, a large group of Monkey King supporters recently gathered ata book center in Tianjin, some 120km to the east of Beijing, calling on Monkey King lovers nationwide to sign their names on a massive petition to have the popular figure a mascot candidate.

Famous Monkey King actor Liu Xiaolingtong also signed his name to the letter first. Liu got his reputation from acting the part of Monkey King in the "Pilgrimage to the West" TV series based on the literary classic of the same name.

Monkey King, also called Sun Wukong, is a bright, brave and capable character in the Chinese literary classic. He is entrusted with the holy task of protecting Tang Seng, a devout Chinese monk, on a pilgrimage to India for the Buddhist holy scriptures.

Being an evil-fighter with integrity and a high sense of loyalty, the Monkey King, though a little bit mischievous, is admired by generations of Chinese kids, who have grown up with thedream of becoming someone like Sun Wukong.

"He embodies the very spirit of Chinese people," said Wang Yang,a supporter at a website specially set up to promote the Monkey King campaign.

"Think about how the Monkey King scares evils, sweeps out troubles and carries the monk through all difficulties," another supporter Peng Yun added. "That makes him a perfect mascot for the Olympic Games."

Despite massive support, the Monkey King still faces an uphill road before being selected as the mascot of the Olympics.

One is the trademark issue. "There are a lot of trademarks registered as Monkey King or similar monkey images," said Lu, a senior official with the Chinese Trademark Bureau. "No one, including government and Olympic Committee officials, are allowed to violate the rights of any legitimate trademark user."

But there is also good news, as Liu Xiaolingtong has promised to give his registered TV image to the Olympic Organizing Committee.

However, legal problems are not all. Many other mascot candidates also cropped up nationwide, of which the giant panda and the Tibetan antelope seem equally competitive.

According to a survey on the Internet, the giant panda, a lovely but endangered species in China, enjoyed 58.42 percent support to become the mascot, closely followed by Monkey King and Tibetan antelope.

The first official Olympic mascot was the Dachshund called Waldi, which was used at the 1972 the Munich Summer Olympic Games.From then on, every Olympic games, winter or summer, had its own mascot, except the 1972 Sapporo winter games. Past Olympic mascots included tiger, raccoon, wolf, eagle, dog, platypus and even a cartoon character called Izzy.

"Mascot is an important part of Olympic Games marketing and themascot selection will be conducted through strict procedures," said officials with the Beijing Olympic Organizing Committee.

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