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Sochi 2014 Games have three animal mascots

Europe
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Moscow (dpa) - Three animals - a snow leopard, a rabbit and a polar bear - are the mascots for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Television spectators voted for the trio of mascots by telephone, and the Sochi Organisation Committee hopes that the animals become as popular as the smiling brown bear Misha, the still beloved mascot from the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

The duo of a ray of light and a snowflake were selected as the symbols for the Paralympics in Sochi.

Before the telephone vote, a jury selected 10 candidates from 25,000 suggestions. Despite many surveys saying it would likely win the vote, the figure of Father Frost was removed from the list of candidates.

"If it had been chosen, the International Olympic Committee would have received the rights of the Russian version of Santa Claus, which would have been problematic," Russian IOC member Vitali Smirnov said.

The organisers believe the three mascots will immediately remind people of Russia and give people a good impression of the Games.

But the residents of the venue host cities criticised the selection, saying the animals have no connection to Sochi.

And in an unofficial vote, they voted for another candidate, a dolphin on skis. The animal which reminds people of the dolphinarium in Sochi is very beloved in the Black Sea city and is featured on many unofficial Olympic souvenirs.

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