This photo shows Bing Dwen Dwen figurines ready to be awarded to winning athletes of the women's snowboard slopestyle final during the flower ceremony at the Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou, north China's Hebei Province. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)
The cute panda mascot Bing Dwen Dwen has become a surprising star during the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.
Products featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, a slightly chubby panda cub squeezed into an ice shell, sold out at a designated online store in just three seconds. Determined to get hold of Bing Dwen Dwen souvenirs, people queued in cold weather outside a licensed merchandise store on the commercial Wangfujing Street in Beijing.
A woman surnamed Wu, who is living in Beijing, has been unable to buy a Bing Dwen Dwen at designated online stores and brick-and-mortar stores even though she has tried several times. "It's so cute. It's irresistible," Wu said.
To meet the surging demand for products featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, licensed manufacturers of the mascot have ramped up production. "We resumed production on Feb. 5, earlier than planned and have bought airplane tickets for some employees to return to work early," said a general manager of a licensed manufacturer of the mascot, adding that the company has kept its production lines running 24 hours a day.
According to Piao Xuedong, head of the Marketing Department of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG), the BOCOG has arranged to increase the supply of Bing Dwen Dwen products to meet surging demand from customers.
The popularity of Bing Dwen Dwen has mainly been attributed to its cuteness in addition to its embodiment of Chinese elements and the Winter Olympics.
According to Cao Xue, a professor from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts and head of the mascot's 14-person design team, the initial version of the design was inspired by sugar-coated haws, a traditional Chinese snack that is popular in northern China. Cao said that the sugar coating looks like a layer of ice, which symbolizes ice and snow sports.
However, the BOCOG and experts suggested that the idea of sugar-coated haws didn't properly convey China's identity. The design team tried again and again to find a suitable image and finally settled on the country's "national treasure” – the giant panda – which enjoys widespread popularity around the globe.
A Bing Dwen Dwen toy placed on its design drafts is pictured on Feb. 9, 2022. (Xinhua/Liu Dawei)
To make the panda look more pleasant, Cao and his team visited southwest China's Sichuan Province, known as the hometown of giant pandas, to observe pandas up close and personal. They found that a panda cub's head and body ratio is different from that of adult pandas, making them even cuter. Therefore, they decided to adopt the image based on the panda cub and the ice shell. Cao explained that the design needed to highlight Chinese characteristics and elements of the Winter Olympics in a unique combination.
After numerous revisions, Bing Dwen Dwen, a panda inside an ice shell stylized as a sports helmet, was created by Cao's team. It's a perfect blend of winter sports and modern technology. The bright colors of the halo around its face represent the tracks on an ice rink, a reference to the National Speed Skating Oval, known as the "Ice Ribbon," which signifies the incorporation of advanced technologies.
Jin Yuanpu, a professor at the Renmin University of China, said Bing Dwen Dwen is an example of an innovative presentation of Chinese symbols and Chinese stories behind the Beijing 2022 Games. For many people, buying the mascot is their way of engaging with the Games, Jin noted, adding that all these features can explain why Bing Dwen Dwen is so highly sought after.
"Bing Dwen Dwen shot to stardom thanks to the opening ceremony of Beijing 2022 and social media, especially short videos," Jin said, explaining that numerous Bing Dwen Dwen-themed short videos have made the mascot increasingly more popular.
Meanwhile, foreign athletes and staff participating in Beijing 2022 have also shown their passion for the mascot. Upon realizing that the Bing Dwen Dwen was to be awarded to medalists, a foreign athlete said that he had hoped to win a Bing Dwen Dwen for his younger sister. Meanwhile, a Japanese journalist showed Bing Dwen Dwen-themed items during a broadcast, with one video clip having gone viral across the world.
"This demonstrates that China's cultural symbols can win the hearts of foreigners and that Chinese cultural and creative products can gain popularity at home and abroad," Jin said.