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1. Wenlock and Mandeville, mascots of the 2012 London Games.
If British organizers felt a need to wrangle a couple of ambulatory penis-shaped entertainers with attitude, couldn't they have just done what the English have been doing for centuries? That is, couldn't they have just raided Ireland and kidnapped the song-and-dance duo Jedward, an act so awful that they have kickstarted the drive for retroactive reproductive choice on the Emerald Island?
Semioticians note that cycloptic eyes of Wenlock and Mandeville bear a disturbing resemblance to the ubiquitous closed-circuit TV cameras that are everywhere in old Blighty. But the real offense is not in representing the surveillance state while wearing what appear to be crotchless chaps but in failing to do justice to a nation that has at least a passing acquaintanceship with aesthetic success.
"With this country's artistic heritage," opined Ewan McGregor, "this one eyed joke made me sad."
But maybe that's the real function of Olympic mascots after all: Amidst the human perfection and striving represented by a two-week-long competition among the world's greatest athletes, mascots such as Wenlock and Mandeville, Amik the Beaver, Whatzit, and the too-terrifying-to-mention Fuwa bring us all back down to Earth. The mascots of past Games and, one suspects, their yet-to-be born brethren of future Olympics, drive home the fact that however far we run and high we jump, we will, just like Olly, Syd, and Millie - and even Fatso! - fail completely in our quest to make something more of our efforts than abject, humiliating failure. If Olympic athletes remind me us of the best that we might be (especially when it comes to cheating on drug tests), then Olympic mascots function as a memento mori, a remembrance that we will die. And look bad doing it.