Their images are everywhere in Athens as the twin mascots of the 2004 Olympic games. Although the yellow-colored, bell-shaped figures are by now a familiar site to Greeks, a stranger to Athens is bound to wonder who or what are those?
Phevos and Athena, the brother and sister mascots of the 2004 Olympics, might be considered a step above the usual stuffed toy Olympic merchandisers come up with every two years, if only because this particular mascot has hundreds of years of history behind it. The male and female dolls, whose gender is only distinguished by either blue or orange dress, are based on a bell-shaped doll from the 7th century B.C. And, they are named for two Olympian Gods: Phevos, god of light and music and Athena, godess of wisdom and patron of Athens.
Of course, that would be of little significance to Olympic vendors, if the dolls and their image did not sell. But, as it turns out, these strange looking creatures are a big hit with kids.
At the Hercules souvenir shop in Athens historic Plaka, the store clerk says Phevos and Athena are its biggest sellers, especially the T-shirts. But there are also a number of mugs, Olympic pins and backpacks adorned by the two mascots.
"Everything you know, the pins are also going very well, and T-shirts, things they are wearing," the clerk said.
Phevos and Athena are everywhere in Athens, on billboards welcoming visitors to the Olympics, on flags at the Olympic park, on the cover of a transit map and on one family from the U.S. city of Los Angeles. Visiting the Olympic park, the parents and their three children had donned T-shirts and hats bearing the image of Phevos and Athena. They also carried a number of the stuffed dolls to bring back home to the United States.
"Actually for our three children and one coming, four, and one for the parents, us. So we make sure we get one for everybody," the mother said.
"I guess the interesting thing is that they represent toys that existed in antiquity, so it's a good thing to go back several thousand years, 3,000 years and see what it is they used to entertain the younger generation," her husband added.
This year's Olympic mascots may look like just another marketing gimmick, but as with so much of the summer games in Athens, the dolls are another reminder of just where and when the games began, some 2,700 years ago in Greece.