Christmas shoppers are going to be able to buy Olympic mascot toys this year after all - if they want stuffed versions of a laughing bird, a duck-billed platypus or a spiny anteater.
Those are, of course, the mascots for the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney, Australia. Olly is a kookaburra, Syd is a platypus and Millie is an echidna.All three will be appearing on store shelves throughout the United States this coming holiday season, thanks to a recent agreement between the U.S. Olympic Committee and the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games.
That ought to be some conciliation for merchants who'd hoped to be hawking products featuring the 2002 Winter Games mascot. The problem is, nothing has been named yet to represent Salt Lake City's Olympics.
Australia's mascot merchandise is selling 15 percent above expectations, according to the Sydney organizing committee. The native beasts appear on everything from bed sheets to baseball caps.
The plush toys are customer favorites, even though Australians have grumbled over the $36-plus price tag. More than half of that money goes back to the organizing committee.
The deal that allows the merchandise to be sold in the U.S. calls for the USOC to split profits from sales with Sydney's Olympic organizers. The Salt Lake Organizing Committee doesn't get a dime.
SLOC officials had planned at one time to introduce their mascot - and merchandise based on it - during last February's closing ceremonies of the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.
Then they decided February wasn't the best time of year to start selling new products, especially toys, and postponed the mascot introduction until this fall.
But a few months ago, it became clear that organizers wouldn't be ready in time for the Christmas season. Now it looks like there won't be a symbol for the 2002 Winter Games until early next year.
Glenn Dalton, the USOC's regional retail manager, said that's OK, even though it means there won't be any Salt Lake mascot merchandise available until after the holidays.
"Don't get me wrong, we'd love to have it," Dalton said. But the USOC stores have plenty of other stuff on the shelves, as do other retailers who stock goods with the USOC or 2002 Winter Games logos.
"For us, it's not (just) a Salt Lake Olympics," Dalton said. "The Olympic movement won't stop because the mascot is delayed." Besides, he said, January through March is typically a stronger tourist season.