Eagle-eyed viewers watching the 2018 Winter Olympics have spotted that athletes are no longer being presented with flowers and medals after competing, but a little stuffed animal when they step onto the podium.
It’s left many asking what happened to the normal Olympic podium protocol, and why are athletes being given a small toy instead?
Firstly, the small toy is named Soohorang, a white tiger that represents the 2018 Olympic Games in Pyeongchang. The tiger is an important figure in Korean culture, long considered to be their guardian animal, and a regular tiger was used as the mascot of the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.
So why is this being given to athletes instead of flowers and medals?
At the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the International Olympic Committee decided that giving athletes flowers on the podium was unsustainable, and decided to change the process to involve the awarding of a mascot or small trophy.
Successful athletes do still receive medals, just not at the initial ceremony after the event. Because the Winter Olympics involves far fewer categories than the Summer Olympics, the IOC is able to hold a ceremony at the end of each day to award all medals to athletes. This isn’t possible at the Summer Olympics as the ceremony would take too long to compete.
There’s also the chance for fans to receive their own Soohorang without having to compete for and win a gold medal, as the mascot is available to buy for 39.95 pounds on Amazon.