The question of the mascot for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games has been the subject of discussions since the bid to host the sports was won.
In the two years since then, a host of Chinese treasured symbols have been considered.
The giant panda; the endangered golden monkey and red-crowned crane; and the traditional cartoon figure the Monkey King have all been favourites along the way.
Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) has announced that the selection process for the mascot design officially started Thursday, and the final mascot will be unveiled on June 1 next year.
Professional designing organizations and staff from all over the world will have the chance to propose their designs. Children's opinions will be considered an important part of the selection process.
Vice-director of BOCOG Cultural Activity Department Zhang Ming says BOCOG will mail hundreds of invitation for the collection of the designs of the mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Other interested professionals can download the invitation from BOCOG's official website www.beijing-2008.org.
"The mascot carries the concept of the Games," said Zhang.
"It should be endearing and characterized by Chinese culture. It should be popular with children and liked by men and women of different cultural backgrounds, and different age groups."
To involve more people in the selection process, as well as the judging committee of experts, there will be an appraisal committee, composed of representatives from different fields.
But ordinary people will not get to vote for the final mascot.
"There won't be a public vote for the mascot as there was in the selection of the design schemes for the national stadium," said Jiang Xiaoyu, BOCOG vice president. "We will seek legal protection before we publish the final decision."
Zhang said all the candidate designs should be made up of individuals or groups of main cartoon figures and five extended figures, involving equestrian, swimming, running, cycling and gymnastics events.
"The mascot should also have a marketing value that can be easily attached to different Olympic licensed products, such as T-shirts, bags, cups, pens, and so on, and look good on TV, the Internet, mobile phones and anything to do with the Olympics," Zhang added.
"The income from the mascot of next month's Athens Olympic Games is expected to reach 720 million euros, with 10 per cent of it coming to the organizing committee."
The designs must be collected by 5:30 pm on December 1. The entire process of judging, revising, reporting and legal registering will end before May.
(China Daily August 6, 2004)