And the Beijing Olympic mascot is...
Beijing Olympic organizers will begin selecting the mascot for the 2008 Olympic Games before July, an official with the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2008 Olympic Games said Tuesday.
The selection is open internationally. A panel including designers and Olympic image experts from home and abroad will make the choice.
"The selection of a mascot is a very important part of preparations for the Games,'' said Jiang Xiaoyu, committee vice-president. "I hope we can find a mascot which can represent China and also be cherished by people all over the world.''
The mascot is another significant Olympic image alongside the Olympic logo and the Olympic slogan. Since the committee unveiled the a seal-like logo in the form of a Chinese character last year, the mascot has long been anticipated.
Many Olympic enthusiasts in China hae suggested images including well-known figures in the past few months. Among them are animal images widely popular such as a monkey because of the lunar calendar.
Last year, it was reported that the city of Lianyungang in Jiangsu Province suggested the "Monkey King,'' the widely beloved figure in China's noted classic work "Journey to the West.''
Other suggestions include the panda and ibis, two of China's mostly treasured wildlife figures.
Mascot marketing must be protected
However, officials say they have not received any complete works and are now waiting for excellent entries.
A Chinese cultural essence is the main criteria.
``It should have the elements of Chinese culture and be able to symbolize China,'' said Sun Weijia, deputy director of media and communications for the committee.
Sun said intellectual property rights are another great concern.
"The mascot carries a huge marketing potential. So choosing something which is too popular in China will be a huge risk for us because we might have trouble in registering the mascot or preventing ambush marketing practices,'' he said.
The committee also revealed the mascot could be two or three images together rather than one image. In Sydney 2000, the mascot included three animal images.
The final choice will be made this year and sent to International Olympic Committee for approval next year.
This year's work agenda for BOCOG also includes two big events involving the Athens Olympic Games.
The torch relay at Athens will arrive in Beijing on June 8 after travelling to four other cities Sydney, Melbourne, Tokyo and Seoul.
This is the first time the Olympic flame will reach the world's most populated country.
The Beijing relay section will be around 45 to 65 kilometres and the torch will be carried by 120 people selected from across the nation. The final relay route has not yet been decided.
The torch will leave on June 10 to travel to another 30 cities before going back to Athens.
In the closing ceremony at Athens, Beijing artists will put on a 10-minute show when Beijing Mayor Wang Qishan receives the Olympic flag from IOC President Jacques Rogge.
"We have made thorough preparations for the show and invited some of the most noted artists and directors to choreograph the show,'' said Jiang. "It marks that it's Beijing' turn to stage Olympics.''
He also revealed that a Beijing tourism fair and China ancient treasure exhibition will also be staged in Athens this summer to promote the Beijing Games.