Here's Why Olympic Medalists Are Getting Stuffed Pandas Instead of Medals

Don't worry, the athletes will get their medals eventually.


Athletes from around the world descended on Beijing last week with a single mission: Leave with gold. But apparently, nabbing first doesn't necessarily garner a medal—at least, not right away.

If you've watched the Games thus far, you might've noticed that some Olympians are awarded a stuffed panda—aka mascot Bing Dwen Dwen—atop the podium rather than their respective medals. This year, the stuffed animal can be found inside of a plastic shell that is meant to represent ice, per the Washington Post, and decked out with a golden wreath. Bing means ice in Chinese.

But don't worry, athletes won't miss out on their medals.  According to TODAY, while some athletes receive medals at the venue, it varies by event. Most must wait until the evening's victory ceremony at the medal plaza to receive theirs—hence the stand-in stuffed panda. Per TIME, "since there are fewer events in the Winter Olympics, organizers are able to hold a medal ceremony every night for that day's winners." So rather than speed through post-competition awards, there's time for a more showy nightly ceremony during the Winter Games.

This isn't a first-time tradition either. Olympians received similar mascots during the PyeongChang Olympics, while Rio athletes were honored with logo figurines in 2016. While athletes used to receive flowers, this tradition was nixed in 2016 due to sustainability concerns.

Either way, some athletes seem extra inspired by the memento.

"Several days ago when I saw the Chinese Speed Skating Team standing on the podium holding Bing Dwen Dwen, I was really jealous," Chinese snowboard slopestyle athlete Su Yiming told reporters. "I realized that through my own efforts, I could also get one. Today I really was able to get one, I'm extremely happy. I hope through my performances I can win more Bing Dwen Dwen."

Check back during the Games for all of Thrillist's continuing Olympics coverage. Think of us like an all-knowing friend watching along with you to answer all the most important questions, like how heavy Olympic medals are, or how you can tell the difference between luge, skeleton, and bobsled. We'll explain everything fromwhy the triple axel is such a big deal, to how the Russian team found a sneaky way to wear its flag despite a ban, and much, much more.

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Megan Schaltegger is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist.