he image: On Saturday, Russian television announced the three winners of a nationwide voting contest to pick the mascots for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. The victors: a snowboard-toting leopard, a prim hare, and a rotund polar bear (See the pictures below). These "dorky," cuddly animals are "some of the safest choices imaginable," says Chris Chase at Yahoo!, and still their selection "has led to charges of plagiarism, corruptibility and vote-rigging." That's in part because shortly after Russian Prime Minister (and known feline lover) Vladimir Putin backed the leopard, it rocketed in popularity, capturing 28 percent of the one million votes. Meanwhile, a mascot meant to symbolize the corruption that will likely plague Olympic construction was unceremoniously nixed, along with another celebrated entry — a likeness of Ded Moroz, the Russian Father Christmas. And after the vote, designer Viktor Chizhikov claimed that the polar bear was a blatant ripoff of "Misha," his mascot for the 1980 summer games in Moscow.
The reaction: "A rigged vote in Russia? Preposterous!" says Chase. But seriously — these choices "aren't groundbreaking," but they're "not awful," either. As for Chizhikov's allegations, he's off base: "The Sochi mascot may be unoriginal, uninspired and bland, but it's not a copy." Aw, c'mon, says Rosie Gray at The Village Voice. The mascots are "pretty cute if a little too Pixar." Although, "the only one who looks remotely athletic is the leopard." Check out the new Russian Olympic mascots:
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