Today (November 14) marks the unveiling of the official mascot of the Olympic Games Paris 2024. The mascot is an important symbol that has become part of the legacy of the Games and endures for years beyond the Opening Ceremony.
Thirty years ago, the Albertville 1992 Winter Olympics took place and Magicala little imp in the shape of a star and a cube, was created by Philippe Mayor. The mascot was a great success and fondly remembered by athletes and fans. But it may never have existed since the first mascot initially chosen for the Games was a chamois, an emblematic animal found in the Alps.
But after 10 days of thinking about the subject – including the connection between the worlds of art and business – Mairesse came up with the idea for Magique.
Mairesse was only 10 years old when the first Olympic mascot was presented at Grenoble 1968. He spoke with Olympics.com on creating a mascot that remains to this day one of his greatest works, and what makes a great mascot – what he calls “the vanguard of visual design”.
Sketches of Magic for a poster, in 1991
Photo by Philippe Mairesse
Olympics.com: How did you come up with the idea of Magique, a mascot that is neither human nor animal?
Philippe Mairesse: There was a desire to move away from traditions such as animals or things for children. All visual identity [of Albertville 1992] was very abstract, graphic and based on atmosphere and mood.
The organizing committee hired Philippe Decouflé for the ceremonies, a choreographer who did very exuberant and stylish things. They called on artists who didn’t really correspond to the traditional spirit of the Games, to make a difference.
Can you go back to how you created Magique?
I didn’t have much time to do it. There was a competition for design agencies and we were already late. We only had eight or ten days to make a proposal, which was very short.
I felt something appear but I couldn’t see what it was. I was going to create a character, but the more I worked on it the more I saw that he looked a lot like Shuss, the mascot of Grenoble 1968. I remember [that mascot] as well as I was a child at the time. In the end, I discovered that I was creating something similar and I said to myself: “it’s no use, it’s a disaster”.
I left it there for a while which didn’t help as we didn’t have time. Then I saw that the star was something predominant in the visual identity of the Desgrippes agency. There were logos designed by Alain Doré with a very strong color scheme: very bright reds, the colors of the Olympic ring… lots of white too. At that moment I visualized the star as a character, I put a hat on her, I wanted to articulate her, I needed to make her move. In fact, I did not present a drawing but something made of cardboard with movable arms and legs. I took pictures of it in different positions.
Shuss, mascot of the 1968 Grenoble Winter Olympics
Photo by Olympics.com
What was the response?
I had very positive feedback from people who liked the mascot. Years later, people still talk to me about it, then there were others who preferred chamois,
Thirty years later, what do you think of your creation?
I think it was a great creation that was different. It was the spirit of the 1990s: “Let’s move on, let’s move on pattern everything.’ But, maybe the idea of not creating a mascot that was a teddy bear resulted in something that wasn’t as emotional. I find Magick emotional, very funny, but maybe it was more of a graphic thing, more suited to a cartoon than a mascot.
Since then I have seen many mascots and, for example, that of Javier Mariscal for Barcelona 1992, Cobi [was very emotional]. Mariscal is an illustrator who has drawn lots of little characters and animals etc. I was more graphic and abstract. As for mascots, mine may have missed some of the emotional elements.
But when I look back on it, I’m very proud. It’s one of my best jobs as an illustrator. When you are asked to work on the mascot of the Olympic Games, you will not be offered anything better in the future.
Barcelona 1992 mascot
Photo of the IOC
What do you think makes a good mascot?
The emotional side. A mascot should be emotional. Then there is the graphic aspect. The Games are at the forefront of sport and must be the same for visual creations. The two aspects are difficult to reconcile.
Then the name too. It’s not the most flamboyant for a mascot but I realized [naming it] was very difficult.
Then there is the animation. A mascot needs to move and it is difficult to achieve. I managed to create it in 2D and 3D but as soon as we moved on to creating it in volume, like toys or costumes, my star became monstrous, it didn’t work as well. He must be able to move in all his forms, which is difficult but a mascot quality.
Then there is something more. The thing that makes you say you couldn’t imagine it before it existed but now that it’s here is obvious to you.