While there are a host of controversial decisions to be made concerning the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, the Russian government has decided to leave one -- that of the mascot -- up to the Russian people.
The Sochi mascot has a hefty history to live up to. Misha, the bear cub of Moscow's 1980's Summer Olympics, has only grown more popular over the past 30 years, becoming a cult-cartoon on T-shirts with his own fan club in Japan.
The president of the Russian Olympic Committee, Dmitry Chernyshenko, has put even more weight on the yet-unpicked mascot.
At a press conference on September 1 he announced, "The mascot should not just be a symbol of Sochi, Russian culture, and Russia as a whole -- but should also be loved by millions of children the world over."
Sochi's mayor likes the dolphin on skis.
Contestants have three months to send their drawings to the Olympic Committee.
"It seems to me that the idea of an Olympic Games in Sochi is a ridiculous idea," Russian artist Andrei Logvin told RFE/RL's Russian Service, "so the mascot should be ridiculous as well."
Well, ridiculous is surely one way to describe some of the current choices.
There are already several suggested drawings floating around the Internet, and Russian blogs and leaders have weighed in on their favorites.
Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov is partial to the dolphin on skis, he told ITAR-TASS. "The dolphin best represents our city. Sochi is a resort town that is both wintry and beachy."
The ambassador to the 2014 games, famous bobsledder Aleksei Voyevoda, endorses the sea horse.
"I really like the sea horse. It has a lot of associations: ice skates for hockey, bobsled, skeleton. And the sea horse is the symbol of Sochi," Voyevoda said.
And, then there are the more wing-and-a-prayer hopefuls.
The patriotic dolphin in a winter hat:
The Pac-Man-style snowball, by Andrei Chesnokov:
The zombie bunny:
The political, "Revoke the Games":
And, finally, the lil' mastodon Dima, drawn by Russian artist Oleg Zvonok:
The Russian Olympic Committee will announce the winner on February 7, 2011.
-- Ashley Cleek