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Lele, the lovable mascot at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games

Nanjinglele or "Lele", the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games mascot, with cheerleaders at center court for the Canada vs. Latvia match where IOC president Thomas Bach attended.

Nanjing, China, August 25, 2014 - When the last Mikasa hits the sand in the Beach Volleyball competition at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games in two days, everything will start to return to normal for the more than eight-million inhabitants that live in the surrounding areas of the capital city of Jiangsu province in Eastern China.

Located in the lower Yangtze River basin and economic zone, Nanjing’s hosting of the world’s best youth Beach Volleyball players will also add to the city’s prominent role in Chinese history and culture as the area also served as the capital of the Asian country for several periods.

With the Nanjing Youth Olympics providing a lasting impact for the players and coaches from the more than 50 national Olympic committees participating in the Beach Volleyball competition, the one image that made an impression on everyone was NANGJINGLele (short of Lele), the mascot of the Games.

“It was cutest mascot ever,” said one player about the mascot that was introduced last November at the Nanjing Olympic Sports Center.  “Everybody was trying to figure out what Lele represented, but we didn’t care.  Lele had personality and lifted everyone’s spirit.  For many of us, you don’t see mascots at a Beach Volleyball event.  That is why Lele has made an impression.”

The original inspiration for Lele was from a river stone, which was regarded as the symbol of Nanjing and produced mainly in Luhe, Nanjing.  砳砳 is the Chinese name.  The left part of the mascot’s uniform represents the rain flower pebble and the right side signifies “the City of Stone” Nanjing.

The pronunciation of 砳砳 is similar with the sound of knocking a stone, and also has the same pronunciation of 乐 which means happy.  “People of Nanjing are simple and dependable, being like the stone.” a Nanjing native resident said.

“Actually, Lele was not welcomed by the Nanjing people at the beginning because of his clumsy shape,” said Dai Guohong, the manager of sports exhibition.  “As the Games moved on, Lele became more and more popular for its cute show.”

In fact, it is the volunteers that make the Lele vivid.  When they put on the Lele outfit and make various postures, it turns the “dead stone” to a “live stone”, nicely showing the core conception of the mascot, which was to spread the natural, positive and health life style in the youth world.

There are more than 120 role players of Lele coming from four area colleges - Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing Sport Institute and Southeast University Chengxian College.  The role players needed to be coordinated and possessing basic skills of aerobics, taekwondo or street dance.

The strong physical and mental capacity was also necessary because of their wearing of the thick Lele pack when the weather became hot and humid.  “We started the physical training everyday after sunset one month before the start of the Games,” said Dai Guohong.  “We told the volunteers that they must show the happiness despite performing in a uniform.”

Zhang Liu, the group leader one of the five Leles working the competition, said “it is hard work, especially at the Beach Volleyball venue where a lot of matches were played during the preliminary rounds.”   Zhang Liu is a doctoral student at Nanjing University of Information Science & Technology.  The other Leles were Xing Hang, Chen Xuanlin, Yang Shufan and Xiang Maqing.

“At the beginning, our shows were too monotonous,” said the 26-year-old Zhang Liu.  “Due to the excitement created by the Beach Volleyball, we adjusted some strategies after a group discussion to improve our show to become active like the players.  Since we often have had an interaction with the players, coaches and the staff at the venue, we are gradually getting better with every session.  Many people like Lele very much and they like to take pictures with Lele.”


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