The Horrifying But Decidedly Non-Territorial Saga of Israel's Quest for an Olympic Mascot

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Like any big story coming out of the region, the news that the Israeli Olympic team has shitcanned its second potential mascot in recent months demands a great deal of serious unpacking and analysis. But first, the details:

Last December, the Olympic Committee of Israel (OCI) held a fan vote on the team’s mascot, which is in itself a strange move. After all, while Olympics are famous for having terrible games-wide mascots like Waldi the Daschund (Munich ‘72) and Izzy the Unidentifiable Creature (Atlanta ‘96), individual nations don’t generally go with cartoon representation; flags suffice. Anyway, the Israelis picked a cactus-looking thing called Shpitzik, which sounds like a Yiddish swear word my grandfather would have mumbled under his breath during a Seder.

But Shpitzik, like the Yiddish language itself, was not meant to last. He was apparently just a rehashed version of the famous 1970s Israeli educational television character Kishkashta. Basically the designer gave Kishkashta a unifom and an Olympic torch and tried to pass him of as something original. This did not sit well with Kishkashta’s owners Educational TV who, after attempting to compromise on the matter, successfully sued the OCI for copyright infringement.

“This is far more than a 'humanization of a cactus,'” wrote the judge, who in February ordered Shpitzik’s permanent destruction and erasure from memory.

One could interpret what happened next in a few different ways. Liel Liebovitz of Tablet chalks it up to a blend of desperation and Israel's particular sense of collective irony. What happened was the OCI doubling down on mascotdom and making the best (worst?) of the situation by signing up for its mascot the Bamba Baby. Who is the Bamba Baby? Only one of the country’s most famous logos, a sort of Pringles Man for Bambas, which are hugely popular peanut butter puffs that look gross but actually taste kind of delicious.

Alas, despite the universal popularity of his product, the Baby’s tenure as mascot was even shorter than Shpitzik’s. Osem, the manufacturer of Bambas, removed the Baby from his post earlier this week after less than 24 hours. Osem will stay on as a sponsor for the team. No third mascot has been announced, but were I on the committee, I would recommend something involving Moshe Dayan’s eye patch:

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