Changing the Rules of the Games

Ilan Greenberg writes on Sunday Magazine of the New York Times:

On a morning in mid-February, the four staff members of Dream for sat in silence in what they call their war room, contemplating posters of Beibei the Fish and her four fellow Olympic mascots taped to the walls. In this cramped office in a shared space on the 16th floor of a downtown Manhattan Art Deco building, Beibei smiled welcomingly, as did Jingjing the giant panda, Huanhuan the red Olympic flame, Nini the green swallow and Yingying the horned orange Tibetan antelope: anime-style drawings that regardless of name appear strikingly the same, Medusa hair fused on teddy-bear faces with little-girl expressions. Once the Summer Games begin in Beijing on Aug. 8, Chinese Olympic officials plan to sell millions of the mirthful mascots; the Chinese government has planted them everywhere in the country, hanging like religious icons from the rearview mirrors of Beijing taxis, greeting guests as stuffed toys atop hotel check-in desks and buzzing above city skylines on huge billboards like hovering fairies.

“I don’t know about the rest of you,” said Jill Savitt, Dream for Darfur’s executive director, as she scanned the posters, “but these cartoon creatures creep me out.” Scattered on the floor around her were boxes overflowing with Dream for Darfur’s own media salvo: white T-shirts emblazoned with “Genocide Olympics?”

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Jill Savitt and Mia Farrow in the Dream for Darfur offices in New York. Photo by Jessica Wynne for The New York Times.

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