By Tom Degun in Barcelona

Dmitry_Chenryshenko_presented_with_Samaranch_award_in_Barcelona_March_10_2011March 11 - Dmitry Chernyshenko (pictured), the President and chief executive of Sochi 2014, has shrugged off the controversy surrounding the mascots for the Winter Games after it alleged that the design was stolen from the mascot for the 1980 Moscow Olympics, Misha, more than 30 years ago.

Misha was arguably the best Olympic mascot of all time and remains an enduring symbol of the controversial Moscow Games, which were boycotted by the United States over the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan, and Chernyshenko is happy comparisons are being made.

"This is very good that they are relatives and that the smile of our mascot, the silver polar boar, reminds people of the Moscow 1980 mascot Misha the Bear," Chernyshenko told insidethegames at the third annual Global Sports Forum here.

"We want them to become friends.

"The Moscow mascot was very popular and is still very popular in our country and it can certainly bring some positives to us as we see our silver polar bear as the grandson of Misha the Bear."


The Sochi 2014 President also claimed that the mascots had been chosen in a fair process following criticism when one of the favourites was withdrawn because of fears over who would own his rights.

Ded Moroz, the Russian version of Father Christmas, was taken out of the voting because otherwise he would have become the intellectual property of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

There was further controversy when the snow leopard received a huge surge in the voting as he was known to be the personal favourite of Russia Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Before the vote, Putin said he favoured the big cat because "the leopard is big, strong, fast and beautiful.

"If the Olympic project restores at least one segment of nature that was lost due to human activities, it will be symbolic."

Chernyshenko said: "It is fantastic to see the Prime Minister taking such an interest in the Sochi 2014 mascots.

"How many other Prime Ministers are this interested in Olympic mascots?

"The mascots were chosen in a very diplomatic process with more than 1.5 million voters expressing their desire for the ones that were chosen.

"That is a huge involvement from the public.

"The snow leopard was the top with 28 per cent of votes of the ten shortlisted candidates, the polar bear was in second place with 18 per cent of the vote and the hare was in third with 16 per cent.

"They truly reflect the choice of the citizens of Russia and around the world they are very satisfied with the choices like we are."

Earlier, a special award named in honour of the former International Olympic Committee President, Juan Antonio Samaranch was presented to Chenryshenko by IOC member, Juan Antonio Samaranch Junior.

"The programme of coaching volunteers for the Games is one of the largest scale and most innovative projects undertaken by the Sochi 2014 organising committee," said Chenryshenko.

"The programme allows us not only to create the infrastructure for training thousands of volunteers for the Games, but will also help to develop the overall volunteering culture in Russia.

"The system of volunteer training will leave an invaluable legacy for the entire Russian nation for many years to come".

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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March 2011: Misha the Bear creator claims Sochi 2014 polar bear has been stolen from him
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December 2010: Variety of animals join Father Frost on shortlist for Sochi 2014 mascot
September 2010: Witch who eats children among Sochi mascot ideas
September 2010: Snow leopard leading race to be Sochi 2014 mascot