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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Slate disses Atlanta Olympics, defends Chinese mascots


We'll never live down Whatizzit, a.k.a. Izzy, the lamest, stupidest aspect of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Slate has a piece today defending China's Olympic mascots that includes a take-down of Izzy and takes some surprising swipes at Atlanta as a city:

Let's not forget the 1996 Atlanta mascot, known variously as "Whatzit," "Whatizhee," or the shortened "Izzy." To this day, I remain unsure what exactly Izzy was meant to embody. The Journal recalls that he was "derided as everything from a 'blue slug' to a 'sperm in sneakers.' " (Izzy also represented perhaps the worst Olympics since Munich. The Atlanta games featured both a terrorist attack and a wave of nauseating Nike/Coke/America triumphalism and were held in a backwater of a town smaller than, I'm not kidding, at least 25 Chinese cities you've never even heard of.)

Oh, snap! Livejournal blogger elemess rightly points out:

Since when is Atlanta a "backwater"? We have the world's busiest airport. The world's most recognizable news organization, the most successful delivery company in history, and the most consumed beverage other than water were all founded here... There are cities in China no one's heard of larger than practically every Olympic city, including such backwaters as Berlin, Rome, and Athens, not to mention such cosmopolitan locales as Lillehammer and Nagano. Let me let you in on a not-a-secret: Shenyang is a backwater. So are Wuhan, Dongguan, and nearly every other Chinese city that isn't Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong.

Coincidentally enough, the new documentary Up the Yangtze, which I review this week, conveys the staggering scale of some of those Chinese cities that are obscure to us in the West.

I always hated Whatizzit because the choice felt like an admission (not necessarily correct) that Atlanta lacks its own identity. But I don't recall Izzy ever being known as "Whatizhee" — is that incorrect, or have I just suppressed that unpleasant memory?

(Image from the official website of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games)

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