By Duncan Mackay in London
British Sports Internet Writer of the Year
May 19 - London 2012 today launched its mascots, Wenlock for the Olympics and Mandeville for the Paralympics, created from the last drops of steel left over from the construction of the final support girder for the Olympic Stadium and were born in Bolton.
The mascots’ names reflect the UK’s rich Olympic and Paralympic histories.
Wenlock's name is inspired by the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock where the Wenlock Games was one of the inspirations that led the founder of the modern Olympic Movement Baron Pierre de Coubertin to create the Olympic Games.
Mandeville’s name is inspired by Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, where, in the 1940s, Dr.Ludwig Guttmann came to Stoke Mandeville Hospital to set up a new spinal unit to help former soldiers suffering from spinal cord injuries.
Looking for ways to inspire those in his care, he encouraged them to take up sport, leading to the formation of the Stoke Mandeville Games, widely recognised as a forerunner of the modern Paralympic movement.
Sebastian Coe, the chairman of London 2012, said: "We’ve created our mascots for children.
"They will connect young people with sport and tell the story of our proud Olympic and Paralympic history.
"By linking young people to the values of sport, Wenlock and Mandeville will help inspire kids to strive to be the best they can be."
They were launched earlier during a private screening to a group of about 100 children aged between six and 11 at St Paul's Whitechapel Church of England Primary School in Tower Hamlets here.
If Coe's aim is for Wenlock and Mandeville to appeal to youngsters, then he will have been delighted with the reaction of the youngsters.
They cheered wildly when they were shown the short film and then played enthusiastically with the two mascots in the school yard afterwards.
Coe said: "I'm very happy with the reaction I've seen here today.
"But the result was what I expected."
The mascots were the overwhelming choice of a number of focus groups who were shown three choices, London 2012 officials claimed.
The story was written by Morpurgo, former children’s laureate, and the film, narrated by actor Simon Russell-Beale, was developed by London 2012 supporter Crystal CG, the Chinese company who are the official imaging services provider for the Games.
A UK wide schools competition has been launched to determine where Wenlock and Mandeville’s journeys take them next.
Schools which are part of the London 2012 Get Set education network can invite Wenlock and Mandeville to visit their school and community.
Wenlock and Mandeville have a number of unique design features including yellow lights on their heads, inspired by London’s iconic black taxis; Wenlock wears friendship bands in the colours of the Olympic rings and Mandeville wears a timing device to track its personal best.
The mascots’ single eye is a camera, which will capture the people they meet, the places they go and the sports they try on their journey to 2012, officials explained.
The mascots will go on to become a key part of London 2012’s ‘Get Set’ education programme, with mascot themed resources available for registered schools developed over the coming months.
Pupils will be able to follow Wenlock and Mandeville’s progress as they make their way in the world, learning about the Olympic and Paralympic values via a website, Facebook and Twitter.
Later this year an online tool will enable people to create their own version of Wenlock and Mandeville, giving the public an unprecedented opportunity to engage with the Olympic and Paralympic mascots.
To celebrate the launch of the mascots, a limited edition run of t-shirts and pin badges has been made available for sale from today on the London 2012 online shop.
London 2012 has also been working with the deaf people in London to develop new sign names for Wenlock and Mandeville which can easily be adopted by British and international sign language users.
Wenlock and Mandeville were designed by London creative agency Iris, following an intensive selection process that included UK wide focus groups of young people, families and industry experts.
Denis Oswald, the chairman of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission for London 2012, said: "Since 1972 when Waldi became the first official mascot of the Olympic Games, mascots have played an integral part in the story of their edition of the Games and Wenlock is no exception.
"Linking a British event that was one of the inspirations for the modern OIympic Games to the 30th edition of the Games, Wenlock will undoubtedly help to spread the message of Olympism across Great Britain and the world, while entertaining young and old alike."
Sir Philip Craven, the President of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), said: "The mascot for the London 2012 Paralympic Games is marvellous.
"I congratulate the London 2012 Organising Committee for the excellent choice of this unique mascot.
"During its journey in the upcoming two years, Mandeville will report about the Paralympic Movement and inspire people to learn about the Paralympic values and achievements of Paralympic athletes.
"I am sure that it will be loved by children all over the world."
Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]
May 2010: London 2012 mascots to be crafted out of steel girder
October 2008: London 2012 starts search for mascot