What's Up With The Sochi Olympics' Animal Mascots? Believe It Or Not, They've Got Quite The Backstory

During Friday's Olympic opening ceremony in Sochi, Russia unveiled their mascots for this year's Winter Olympics — and, um, they're kind of creepy. The three animals, given the very creative names of "The Polar Bear," "The Hare," and "The Leopard," skated onto the ice in Sochi's Fisht Olympic Stadium. The robotic mascots were so life-like that some viewers did a double-take over whether they just costumed humans. Leave it to Russia to make a teddy bear look scary, eh?

The mascots were decided by public vote in Russia, though some accused President Vladimir Putin of rigging the choices (of course.) The animals have significance to the country: Russia has seen a decrease in its snow leopard populations thanks to poachers, even though the animals are officially protected by the state. It's hoped that the leopard's presence may help conservation efforts.

The hare — not to be confused with its cousin, the rabbit — can be found all over Russia. The quick little creatures turn white in the winter. Polar bears are found in the Arctic Circle, but poachers, as well as global warming, have been targeting the animals.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Plus, the tech-savvy mascots even have their own Twitter account.

But these nice backstories didn't stop people making fun of the mascots, maybe because the bear was included in Sochi swag bags.

Oh, you guys.

Still, there have definitely been worse Olympic mascots. The 2010 Vancouver Games featured Quatchi the Sasquatch and Miga the mythical Sea Bear, and the 2006 Games' mascots in Turin, Italy, were an ice cube and snowball.

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