SwimSwam will periodically update you on the biggest news around the Olympic and Paralympic world, outside of aquatic sports. Catch up on the new mascots for Paris 2024, the latest on the Tokyo Olympic bribery scandal, and an update on Brittney Griner‘s ongoing imprisonment in Russia.
Paris 2024 unveils next Olympic mascots
Paris 2024 president Tony Estanguet unveiled the Olympic Phryges as the mascots for the next Summer Games.
The Phrygian hat is a peasant-style cap that was worn by revolutionaries during the French Revolution. It has since become a national symbol of liberty.
On vous présente la Phryge Olympique et la Phryge Paralympique !
Les mascottes de #Paris2024 ✨
Sportives, fêtardes… et françaises 🇫🇷
— Paris 2024 (@Paris2024) November 14, 2022
There are two characters, the Olympic and Paralympic Phryge, with the golden Paris 2024 logo across their red chests. The Paralympic Phryge has a running blade on his right leg, marking the first time an Olympic mascot has had a visible disability. The Olympic Phryge is described as “tactician with a calculating brain” while the Paralympic Phryge is “spontaneous and full of energy and enthusiasm.” Their motto is, “Alone we go faster, but together we go further.”
“We chose an ideal rather than an animal,” Estanguet said. “We chose the Phrygian cap because it’s a very strong symbol for the French Republic. For French people, it’s a very well-known object that is a symbol of freedom.
“The fact that the Paralympics mascot has a visible disability also sends a strong message: to promote inclusion,” he added.
As with previous Olympics, the mascots are expected to be the highest-grossing item from the Paris 2024 store. They’re not all success stories, however, as disappointing sales of the 2012 London mascot caused the toy manufacturer’s shares to plummet.
Takahashi arrested again in Tokyo bribery scandal
Haruyuki Takahashi, a former board member of the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee, was arrested for a fourth time in connection with a growing bribery scandal surrounding Olympic sponsorships.
Tokyo prosecutors say they have now uncovered more than $1.3 million in bribes. Most allegedly went to Takahashi, who used to be the senior director of Japanese ad giant Dentsu, but some to consulting firms that were friendly with him. The accusations include bribes of $360,699 from Aoki Holdings, $537,377 from Kadokawa Corp., $106,061 from Daiko Advertising, $49,495 from Sun Arrow Inc., and $332,325 from ADK Holdings.
Takahashi allegedly gave Aoki Holdings and Kadokawa Corp. discounted rates to become sponsors. Sun Arrow is accused of bribing Takahashi for a license to make toys with Tokyo 2020 marks and of the mascots. Prosecutors indicted two Sun Arrow executives, three from ADK Holdings and Joji Matsui, the owner of a consulting firm who helped funnel funds to Takahashi.
Brittney Griner transferred to Russian penal colony
After having her appeal denied last month, two-time Olympic gold medalist Brittney Griner has been transferred to a Russian penal colony. According to rights group Amnesty International, conditions in Russian colonies and prisons are “among the worst in Europe.”
Nine months ago, Griner was detained at a Moscow airport for bringing less than a gram of cannabis oil into the country. The 32-year-old WNBA star was sentenced to nine years in August.
“Following a sham trial and the unjust sentencing of Brittney Griner, Moscow is transferring her from a prison in Moscow to a remote penal colony,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. “It is another injustice layered on her ongoing unjust and wrongful detention.
“As we work to secure Brittney Griner’s release, we expect Russian authorities to provide our Embassy officials with regular access to all U.S. citizens detained in Russia, including Brittney, as is their obligation. Ensuring the health and welfare of U.S. citizen detainees in Russia is a priority, and we will continue to press for fair and transparent treatment for them all.
“Our hearts are with Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan, as well as their family, friends, and supporters, who all continue to suffer from Russia’s decision to wrongfully detain U.S. citizens. We continue to work relentlessly to bring them home. I am focused on doing so, as are so many others in the Department. We will not relent until they are reunited with their loved ones.”
More U.S. Olympic volleyball medals stolen
A few months after U.S. volleyball player Jordyn Poulter had her Tokyo 2020 gold medal stolen from her car, three more American women’s volleyball medals have been reported missing in Southern California.
According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, an unknown burglar broke into a former player’s home and took off with a safe containing three medals: a London 2012 silver, Rio 2016 bronze, and Tokyo 2020 gold. The burglary took place on October 29 but wasn’t reported publicly until last week.
Only two U.S. volleyball players have taken home silver, bronze, and gold medals from the last three Olympics: star hitter Jordan Larson and middle blocker Foluke (Akinradewo) Gunderson. Information about the burglary should be given to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department at (949) 425-1900.
“You think of someone who steals a bag of stuff and they find a medal inside, well what can they do with it?” said U.S. Olympic women’s coach Karch Kiraly, who won three Olympic gold medals himself. “They can’t do anything because as soon as they try to sell it to somebody else it gives away a lot of information. So, it’s either hang on to it for 100 years or throw it away — or maybe turn it in to help a rockstar person who has been a rockstar volleyball player.”
In the case of Poulter, whose gold medal was stolen in July, her hardware was eventually found after the thief left it in a plastic bag outside an Anaheim barber shop.