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(LEAD) PyeongChang launches nat'l tour for Olympic mascots

All News 16:30 July 18, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS photos)

SEOUL, July 18 (Yonhap) -- The organizers of the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics on Monday launched a nationwide tour for the event mascots in hopes they will help further drive up interest in the country's first Winter Games.

The PyeongChang Organizing Committee for the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) kicked off the national promotion tour of its mascots Soohorang, a white tiger, and Bandabi, an Asiatic black bear, in a ceremony at Hoenggye Elementary School in the host city of PyeongChang some 180 kilometers east of Seoul in Gangwon Province.

It was the first public appearance of the full-sized mascots. The POCOG decided on the two animals as mascots on June 2.

About 150 students attended the ceremony, with 2010 Olympic figure skating champion Kim Yu-na also on hand as an honorary ambassador for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

The ceremony also included a mini winter sports expo, allowing the students to experience Olympic winter sports, including rifle shooting for the biathlon and a virtual reality experience for ski jumping. Athletes served as their daily instructors.

"Today's event was thrown to publicly show our mascots, Soohorang and Bandabi, as symbols to communicate and interact with the world," POCOG President Lee Hee-beom said. "In order to work up the Olympic excitement, the tour will also hit the Rio (Summer) Games for more active international promotion and reach major cities and festivals in Korea."

The POCOG previously noted that tigers traditionally represent the shape of the Korean Peninsula, and the white tiger is regarded as "a sacred guardian animal." The color white is also indicative of the snow and ice of winter sports, the POCOG added.

"Sooho" is the Korean word for "protection," and "Rang" comes from the middle syllable of "ho-rang-i," the Korean word for tiger.

Bandabi the Asiatic black bear, which will be the Winter Paralympics mascot, is the symbol of Gangwon Province, and it represents "strong will and courage," according to the POCOG.

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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