By Gary Anderson

September 10 - New red mittens launched to support Canadian athletes ahead of Sochi 2014Olympic champion Alexandre Bilodeau was on hand in Montreal today to help launch the fifth Hudson's Bay Red Mitten campaign with just 150 days remaining until the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games.

The freestyle skier, who became Canada's first athlete to win Olympic gold on home soil when he topped the podium at Vancouver 2010, joined a number of fans at the launch of the iconic scheme, which raises funds to support the nation's athletes through the Canadian Olympic Foundation (COF).

"The Red Mitten initiative represents a concrete way for Canadians to show their interest in, and support for, our Olympic athletes," said 26-year-old Bilodeau.

"It is a simple way to help make Olympic dreams come true."

Retailer Hudson's Bay Company first produced the red mittens - which were originally entirely red, and featured the Olympic rings and "Vancouver 2010" on the outside, as well as a maple leaf on each palm - in 2009 in the run up to the home Games to provide extra funding for Canadian athletes competing at the event.

More than three million pairs were sold by the end of Vancouver 2010, according to the COF, which raised more than $9 million (£5.7 million/€6.8 million) that year.

Priced at $10 (£6.37/€7.54), Hudson's Bay Company says it has sold more than five million pairs to date, and for every pair sold it donates $3.33 (£2.12/€2.51) to the COF to support Canadian athletes.

Due to the initial success and popularity of the mittens, Hudson's Bay Company has designed a new version every year since.

Vancouver 2010 gold medallist Alexandre Bilodeau shows off his Sochi 2014 red mittensVancouver 2010 gold medallist Alexandre Bilodeau shows off his Sochi 2014 red mittens

For London 2012, Hudson's Bay Company used a rustic maple leaf emblazoned with "Canada" on the outside and "2012" on the palm, while the Sochi 2014 edition has been influenced by the firm's traditional scarlet point blanket, introducing a black cuff and white fingertips, but maintains a classic look with "CAN" on the outside and a white maple leaf on the palm.

"The mittens are a symbol of national pride and belief in our athletes, and the more than $22 million (£14 million/€17 million) raised to date by this initiative is an achievement Canadians across the country can celebrate," said Bonnie Brooks, President of Hudson's Bay Company.

Marcel Aubut, President of the Canadian Olympic Committee and chairman of the COF, added: "Winning is important to our country and through the COF's partnership with Hudson's Bay, the Red Mitten initiative has generated more than $22 million (£14 million/€17 million) in support for Canadian podium potential since 2009.

"Through this ongoing partnership, the foundation will continue supporting the development of today's Olympic hopefuls, while investing in the next generation of athletes who will help to realise Canada's Olympic dreams for years to come."

The launch of the Sochi Red Mitten also marks the introduction of infant sizes for the first time, and a new collectors' mitten-shaped pin, the purchase of each will see $3.33 (£2.12/€2.51) going to to the COF.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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