The English name for the five mascots of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games was silently changed last week, according to a local paper today.
Original English Name
Beijing Star Daily said sources from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) confirmed that the mascots' collective English name was officially changed from the "Friendlies" to the "Fuwa," the Chinese pinyin spelling translation, last week.
Those mascots and their names were unveiled last November. The newspaper said that "the change was made due to integrated consideration of various factors." Most references to them have been changed on the Beijing Olympics' official website, although not all have been corrected.
An official from BOCOG's media and communications department said that he had not received a formal message and did not know specific reasons behind the change.
The veracity of the translated international name "Friendlies" was always questioned by many people, especially netizens ever since their release last year. A doctor surnamed Li from Lanzhou University was among the first to criticize the translation, saying the name could mislead foreigners. The pronunciations of "Friendlies" and "friendless" are close, while some others may think that "Friendlies = Friend + lies."
Li even suggested three other translations for consideration: Forworld; Forward; Forwards. The latter two pronunciations are similar to the mascots' Chinese name's pronunciation, while having positive meanings. However, "Fuwa" has now been decided.
An Olympic-themed garden party for citizens to learn foreign languages was held in Beijing last weekend. Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG executive vice president, attended the party and called for participants to learn and improve their foreign languages, creating a good environment for 2008. The famous English language-teaching expert Li Yang led people to read English out loud at the event. Many foreign volunteers were also there to communicate with language learners and nearly 100,000 people attended the two-day event.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Rui, October 16, 2006)