You may recognise the new Olympic mascot as the droopy hat the smurfs wear, or perhaps you may have seen it donned on Marianne – France’s lady of liberty – in paintings and on statues.
It is the Phrygian cap, a symbol of the French republic and has been chosen as the mascot for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
On vous présente la Phryge Olympique et la Phryge Paralympique !
Les mascottes de #Paris2024 ✨
Sportives, fêtardes… et françaises 🇫🇷
— Paris 2024 (@Paris2024) November 14, 2022
Sporting a pair of sneakers as a nod to the present, the animated red caps were unveiled on Monday.
Normally, the Olympic mascot is an animal, but according to Tony Estanguet, the president of the organising committee, they wanted one that would “embody the French spirit by offering something new.”
Thus, the Phrygian cap was chosen as “a nod to the revolutionary spirit we want to instill in the Games,” Estanguet told French daily Le Parisien.
Julie Matikhine, the brand manager for the Paris 2024 Olympic games, told Franceinfo that the duo of mascots are meant “to lead a revolution by our side through sport,” and to show “that sport has the power to change everything.”
She added that the “reference to the Phrygian cap is that of our French spirit, a spirit so unique that it has crossed through centuries.”
A symbol of liberty
Also known as the “red cap of liberty” or the “liberty cap,” the Phrygian cap is not to be confused with a béret. The brimless hat is a cultural staple in France, famous for having been worn by members of the French revolution.
A symbol of freedom for centuries, a similar version of the cap was first worn by freed Roman slaves and represented their liberation.
Since the French revolution, it has become a national symbol for the French republic. In the famous painting “Liberty leading the People” Marianne, the symbol of Liberty, is wearing a red Phrygian cap, as she does in several other representations.
The cap also appears on many flags and coats of arms of Latin American countries.
But the brimless hat is not the only way that the 2024 Olympics plans to recognise the French revolution – the marathon route is the one French women took to Versailles from Paris on October 5, 1789, to protest over principally the rising price of bread.
As for the mascots themselves, one of the mascot’s eyes is blue and one of the two is draped in two ribbons in the colours of the French flag, in the style of a cockade, or knot of ribbons, which was another symbol of republicanism during the Revolution.
Selling the caps
The other difference to the Paris 2024 mascot is that it will not be represented by just one mascot, instead the Phrygian caps will be a family, similar to the Minions or the Smurfs.
There will be two heroines: the cunning Olympic Phrygia and the Paralympic Phrygia, branded as the more festive and extroverted of the two. The latter of the two mascots has a visible handicap – a prosthetic leg.
The brand manager for the Paris 2024 games told Le Parisien that “For us, [the disabled mascot] is the flagship for a great movement of inclusion and equal opportunity.”
The mascots will be sold on T-shirts, mugs, and pins, as well as in the form of stuffed animals starting on Monday. But the toy replicas have drawn some controversy, as almost all are set to be made in China.
Organisers defended their manufacturing plans and told AFP that this is “like the great majority of toys sold in France.”
No figures were given for the number of toy replicas that have been manufactured but they are expected to make up “between 20 and 25 percent” of merchandising revenue.