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Thumbs up for Wenlock and Mandeville

Posted on 20 May 2010 | 10:05am

As David Cameron and Nick Clegg prepare to set out agreed plans for their coalition government, I thought I would focus on another shiny new double act, and one which will become more not less endearing to the British public as time goes on.

I refer to Wenlock and Mandeville, the London 2012 mascots unveiled yesterday, complete with commendable TV hype – Yes, I watched The One Show – a splendid back story written by children’s author Michael Morpurgo, and a lovely film of the story, all easily findable if you google the two names, chosen because of historic connections with Olympics and Paralympics.

Wenlock’s name comes from the Shropshire village of Much Wenlock, which helped inspire the founder of the modern Olympic movement, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, to create the Olympic Games. Mandeville’s name is inspired by Stoke Mandeville in Buckinghamshire, whose hospital Games  were a forerunner of the modern Paralympic movement.

When I tweeted last night that I was loving Clare Balding’s enthusiasm for W and M on The One Show, some of you thought I was being ironic, or hiding my own negative view of the mascots. Au contraire, as the defeated Paris bid team might say. I totally share Clare’s enthusiasm.

In any event, she and I, and the occasional cynic taking them apart in the papers today, are not really the target. Kids are. And the kids who first saw them yesterday appeared to love them. They will also be able to help shape the story of what happens to Wenlock and Mandeville as they travel around the country between now and the Games.

Assuming the coalition is still intact by then, and Cameron still PM, I won’t pretend that it will be slightly galling to see him, Boris (if still mayor), Colin Moynihan and other assorted Tories presiding over the Games, given how hard TB’s government worked to get them for London, and GB’s to make sure they were delivered. (Seb Coe is uber-politics btw, despite having been William Hague’s chief of staff, and so not to be lumped in the Tory list.)

But even I, just a week or two after the election, can put all that to one side amid the frisson of excitement that two little characters fashioned from droplets of steel can inspire. I can even, despite the treachery of Owen Coyle in departing Burnley, forgive them for coming from Bolton. Just call me big-hearted Al.

*** Buy The Blair Years online and raise cash for Labour

  • Salil

    But why the cyclop look?

  • Hilary Marsh

    They are a matter of taste obviously, but I do agree they will grow on people whereas Cameron-Clegg will have opposite effect. I am a friend of my Tory MP – oh, ok, I work for him – and backbenchers are feeling distinctly uneasy. Cameron’s arrogance was fine when everyone thought he was going to win. But he didn’t win and now he is still treating MPs like dirt.

  • John Hills

    What was all that Motty World Cup Willie all about? And why is he not commentating in the SA World Cup. Come on Al, sort it out!! We want Motty back, said we want Motty back …

  • Bruce Johanneson

    I think Boris is the only one among the Tories (I agree Seb Coe should not be seen as politician) who understands none of it would have happened without Blair and also Jowell, who Boris said should be kept on in some way. Cameron will just lord over it in that born to rule way they teach at his school

  • Megan

    Sorry Alastair, but I cannot share your enthusiasm for the mascots. The one with the spikes on the back of its head looks like it should come with batteries!!

  • Graham Jones

    I agree that they are great icons for the Olympics. The important aspect, is that they have a story to tell. If they had just been conjured up on a drawing board, without any history, then it could have fallen flat.
    As someone involved in the visual arts, it was refreshing to see a clean break, from the traditional Olympic language. Javier Mariscal’s designs at the Barcelona Olympics (Coby) were odd at first, but have grown into design classics. At the time they were different, as are Wenlock and Mandeville. If anything, they are fuller characters, with a story to tell.
    It is a signature, of how identity through design, has grown into a fully rounded vehicle, where graphics, illustration and animation fuse into a new visual language. We live in a world, where the design industry is maturing at an increasing rate. This has been possible, because we had thirteen years of Labour. We would still be thinking inside old boundaries, if Tony, Gordon and the Labour party, hadn’t shown the confidence in the creative industries. They did however, and our international reputation soared again – thank you Labour.
    My only regret is that we can’t let Wenlock and Mandeville run the country. They’d be better than the pair of tossers we’re stuck with.

    P.S Great to see so many good candidates stepping forward to lead the party. It’s a pity that Harriet and Yvette Cooper have not decided to run, as either would have brought something different to the debate.

  • Alan Quinn

    None it would have happened without Manchester’s Commonwealth games either. I’m surprised you never mentioned the MoS’s part in ruining the 2018 World Cup bid AC, at least Gary Lineker showed he had some integrity.

  • Patrick James

    Is Wenlock Dave and Mandeville Nick or is it the other way around?

  • kathy

    It is really funny that today I was having a pub lunch by a lake with my two daughters and 3 grandchildren. The kids were provided with crayons and paper. My 3 year old granddaughter, who I have to say has a flair for drawing even at such a young age, held up her masterpiece. We all burst out laughing because it honestly was just like one of these characters. I don’t know if that means these are so bad a child could have designed them or she is a budding genius with a great future. Either way people will either love or hate them as always. By the way Go Dianne Go! It’s great to see a new face in the running and a female one as well.

  • steve wilson

    just bought The Blair Years, can’t put it down, it’s fascinating. just re joined the labour party too. walking round the streets of Hull people are actually scared about this coalition, I mean really scared.

  • kathy

    With respect to you Steve I come from Northern Ireland and have lived here for 37 years. Tell the people of Hull that scared is not knowing if your husband will get home safely from work or might get shot or caught up in a riot on the way. Scared is listening to gunshots and bombs exploding not far from where you live. Scared is walking along the street at night and wondering if the car driving past you contains men who are going to shoot you in a tit for tat war. Finally scared is knowing that you are going to have to leave your country and family and friends in order to bring up your kids without hatred and prejudice. I’m sorry Steve but I think you are being just a bit melodramatic. Whatever the coalition throws up we are still not in danger of losing our lives. Take care Steve and try to look on the bright side.

  • Pete

    Hi I,m not a natural Tory supporter, but I too have walked around Hull, and talked to many people, who contrary to what appears to be partisan scaremongering, most of the people I speak to, from whatever background and persuaion, are hopeful that the coalition WILL succeed and be a force for change.
    We must be careful not to theorise just to show support for trenchant party lines.

  • penfrocharlie

    Since when hasn’t it been scary to walk round the streets of Hull?

  • penfrocharlie

    Graham Jones post at 16:18

    Any chance you could put your third paragraph into English for the benefit of those of us who have suffered under Labours dismal education system?

  • Katie

    Glad to see that Wenlock & Mandeville has charmed both Alastair and his followers (well most of them). Can I urge you all to read about Dr William Penny Brookes, of Much Wenlock in Shropshire, who was a thoroughly modern man (in the 19th century!) – his aim was to provide sport, activity and cultural enrichment to help young people (sound familiar?) and started the Wenlock Olympian Games in 1850. Visit Wenlock and Shropshire as soon as you can – but don’t overwhelm its narow streets with cars – it is a quintessential, medieval market town with magnificent Guildhall, a small Museum and Shropshire will be delighted to welcome you. You’ll be able to enjoy our wonderful heritage(including Charles Darwin, Wenlock Edge and Ironbridge) real food and ale and go back home refreshed and inspired! Wenlock has the Edge!
    see you soon!