Just when you thought you'd seen — er, heard — it all.
Bing Dwen Dwen, the adorable panda mascot for the Olympic Games, is actually contractually forbidden from speaking, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
All things considered, the Journal notes, Bing Dwen Dwen is a rather successful mascot, especially compared to those of Games past. But its cuddly aura was shattered last week, when the "roly-poly space panda" opened its mouth during a livestream with state broadcaster China Central Television. Viewers and fans panicked almost immediately, distraught after hearing "the voice of a middle-aged man," rather than that of a cute, child-like character, per the Journal.
China's censors took care of the episode soon after, pulling the clip from China's internet and removing the hashtag "Bing Dwen Dwen has spoken" from the social media platform Weibo. Once Chinese media "moved in to contain the damage," writes the Journal, they slammed the speaking panda as an imposter and recirculated a pre-Games quote from a Beijing Olympics organizing committee legal expert who confirmed Bing Dwen Dwen was actually only allowed to make "babbling noises."
In fact, the panda, whose name describes an "Ice Child," is "contractually obliged under a deal with the International Olympic Commission to be gender-neutral and refrain from speaking," the Journal writes, per Wu Yujia, a legal expert.
"Once you speak," Wu said, "it is easy to identify the gender."
Bing Dwen Dwen, blink twice if you're okay.