2018 Olympic mascot takes gold for “cutest”

Athletes at the 2018 winter games hold up their well-earned Soohorang plushies in victory.

Shoreline Media Group

Athletes at the 2018 winter games hold up their well-earned Soohorang plushies in victory.

If you’ve caught a glimpse of scenes from the post-event “venue ceremonies” at this year’s winter Olympics, you have probably seen competitors holding up a stuffed animal. Rather than presenting winners with the traditional floral bouquets, the officials in Pyongchang instead chose to give each medal winner an adorable plush version of the games’ mascot, a white striped tiger.

 With a friendly smile and the Olympic rings across its chest, the tiger, named “Soohorang,” is rapidly gaining fame as a cute symbol of the games in South Korea. The beginning of its name, “Soohoo,” translates to protection while “rang” is derived from the Korean word for tiger, according to Fox News. The symbol for protection is meant to remind spectators and athletes of South Korea’s dedication to protecting their visitors.

 According to the website for the 2018 winter Olympics, the tiger represents, “an ode to the heritage of South Korea.” The tiger is often used to represent protection in South Korean culture. For example, tiger sculptures mark the ancestral burial grounds of royalty during the Joseon dynasty. Additionally, when Korea was a Japanese colony, the tiger was used to represent the fierce fight of the Korean people to defend their homeland.

 One result of the tiger being chosen as the Olympic mascot is increased awareness brought towards the Siberian tiger species’ dwindling population in South Korea and the rest of Asia. Although their once abundant population within the Korean peninsula is believed to have gone extinct, less than 500 remain in the birch forests of eastern Russia according to National Geographic. As people continue to promote the rescue of their species, there is hope for Siberian tigers as endearing and lovable as Soohorang to thrive.