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Izzy the Whatizit
   Trying to tell the story of Izzy is much like being a part of the old Abbot and Costello comedy routine, "Who's on First?" The reaction to our first glimpse of Izzy was "What is it?" The answer: "Whatizit." With the question being a question, and the answer looking like a question, and the strange Whatizit in question, everybody had questions. Izzy was Izzy and Whatizits were fantasy creatures from the Torch World, a land of make believe within the Olympic Torch. It just took us earthlings a while to get things right.
       The story of the Torch World begins with the first modern Olympiad in 1896. The Games took place at the site where the ancient Olympiads had been held, on the plains of Olympia, near Athens, Greece. It had been over 1500 years since those ancient Games, and now the Olympic Flame burned once more. High above the new marble stadium, the torch was reignited in the sacred tradition, lit with rays from the sun. With the first flicker of fire, the renewed Olympic Spirit energized a tiny spark within the flame. As the torch passed on from one Olympiad to the next, the energy became a force so powerful it created a new world, the Torch World, right there in the cauldron. The Whatizits, born of the same force, instinctively knew they were the "keepers of the flame."
Olympic Torch
   Soon the population of the Torch World increased. Green, pink, purple, blue and yellow Whatizits of all shapes and sizes were everywhere. Neighborhoods developed along the rim
Whatizits of the torch. Fabulous stadiums and training facilities soon followed. The Elders, guardians of Torch World, dutifully scheduled and judged a constant procession of Torch World Olympic Games. The energy of the Olympic Spirit from these games helped fuel the flame above them and kept it burning brightly.
  The Torch World was a great place to live. The athletes, spectators, and the Elders were happy and content with their own Games. Only
one, the little blue Whatizit named Izzy, had higher ambitions. He dreamed of leaving Torch World to participate in the Olympic Games on Earth. Izzy was not among the best athletes, so the other Whatizits did not think much of his goal. His own mother told him it was impossible. Izzy kept his focus despite the ridicule. By believing in himself and remaining true to his dream, Izzy became the first Whatizit on Earth, and just in time to be the Atlanta Games mascot!
 Olympic Rings  As with most heroic tales, facts are lost in the retelling. Exactly how Izzy gained the power to leave Torch World is unclear. One legend tells of a wise Elder's revelation that a Whatizit could make it to Olympic Games on Earth, but only for the Centennial Games. The rights of passage had to be earned by finding the five Olympic rings hidden in the center of Torch World, a rugged and dangerous region where no Whatizit
had ever tread. Izzy encountered volcano eruptions, mountains, glaciers, waterfalls, swift rapids, big dark caves, fire-breathing dragons, and other dangers, but valiantly emerged from his quest with all five rings.
    Another tale is that Izzy appeared before a Tribunal of Elders, Citius, Altius, and Fortius. They agreed to grant Izzy special magical powers that would enable him to go to the Centennial Games if he earned the five rings competing in the Torch World Games. Izzy trained hard and entered so many different events, he was awarded the Blue Ring of Perseverance. Izzy refused a medal for winning a cycle race because he had gotten lost
Fortius, Altius, Citius and had taken a shortcut. For his honesty, he received the Black Ring of Integrity. In gymnastics, Izzy gave the performance of a lifetime, but the judges scored it low. By not blaming the judges and vowing to train harder instead, Izzy's good attitude earned the Red Ring of Sportsmanship. A perfect hurdles race won Izzy a gold medal and the Yellow Ring of Excellence. Izzy was the first Whatizit to ever be awarded any of the rings. Jealousy shrouded the Torch World and for the first time the torch began to sputter and grow dim. For the sake of the torch and in consideration of his fellow athletes, Izzy abandoned his dream one ring short of his goal. In grand ceremony, the Tribunal of Elders presented Izzy with the most prestigious award of all, the Green Ring of Brotherhood. All the citizens of
Torch World, even the athletes who had been jealous, rejoiced and celebrated the splendid accomplishments of Izzy, the little blue Whatizit, and wished him well on his journey. The torch, super-charged by the renewed spirit, regained its brilliant glow.
   Which story of his valor is true is immaterial. The joining of all five rings gave Izzy special magical powers that made it possible for him to "live the dream."
   If you cried watching the movie Rudy, as the little underdog trotted on the field for the first time to play football for Notre Dame in the waning minutes of the final game of his senior year, then you have got to feel good about Izzy.


"If you have a dream, you must stay true to it. Believe in your dream, do everything you can to follow it, and you can make it come true!"

Izzy the Mascot
Morphed as an angel and a baseball glove Morphed as a heart and a soccer ballIzzy was amazed as he began to acclimate to the many magical powers joining the 5 Olympic rings had given him. Superior speed, strength, agility, wisdom, and insight enabled him to do things Whatizits never dreamed were possible. Among his new found strengths was the ability to be amorphous. Izzy could magically transform into any shape, size, or form. It was fun to "morph" into and become a part of other things or beings. At last, Izzy had the know how to use his amorphous powers to exit Torch World and go to Earth to fulfill his Olympic Destiny.
  The 1992 Barcelona Games were only five weeks away. The Atlanta Games organizers were running out of time as they searched for the perfect mascot. The committee had been deluged with mascot suggestions from all over the world. Willie B., the beloved gorilla from the Atlanta Zoo was a big favorite. Br'er Rabbit, the folklore hare of Georgia author, Joel Chandler Harris, was another. Flambeau, the Phoenix, the Greek mythological bird that rose from its ashes, as did Atlanta after the Civil War, seemed very appropriate. Still, the organizers were hoping for something innovative and special to represent the Centennial Games.
Izzy morphed as a lightbulb  With being a part of the Olympic Games foremost on his mind, the first thing Izzy did was morph into the light fixture of an office where the Atlanta organizers were having a committee meeting. He listened in as they said choosing and marketing the "right" mascot was imperative. The World would judge the host city and the success or failure of its games on how well their Mascot spread the "Olympic Spirit and Goodwill" to all mankind.
Izzy phones home to be told to "look it up"  In Torch World all Whatizits spread the Olympic Spirit. "Mascot" was a strange new word that intrigued Izzy. He yearned to know more. Mom was just the one who could help! Izzy grabbed his cell phone and called home to ask what a "mascot" might be. Whatizits do not know about mascots, but Mom was not about to admit she was clueless. Her motherly advice was to research the subject on his computer, then he would always remember.
   From his laptop, Izzy learned that "Waldi," a squatty little Dachshund, became the first official mascot for the Munich Games of 1972. Since, the upcoming host city traditionally introduces its "official mascot" at the closing of the previous games. Caricatures of animals native to the host country are usually chosen. As ambassadors of the Olympic Spirit, mascots add a fun and exciting element to the Games that reaches beyond language and cultural differences.
   When Izzy left Torch World, his ambition was to be the world's greatest Olympic athlete. All Whatizits are born of the Olympic Spirit, so it was only natural that Izzy also felt he was the perfect solution to the Mascot problem. With his magical powers, Izzy was certain he could be both.
  Izzy began his mascot campaign by morphing himself as an “idea” within the mind of his creator, John Ryan. The little blue Whatizit soon materialized as a computer generated sketch which John submitted to the organizers as a candidate for Atlanta mascot consideration.
DadIzzy carries the flag of Afghanistan  Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games President and CEO, Billy Payne, instantly knew Izzy was the futuristic mascot he had hoped for. The little “Blue Guy” with a green dad and a purple mom was the perfect example of the diversity that had moved Atlanta beyond racial prejudice. Izzy could easily transform himself into a male or female athlete, thus bridging the gender gap. This Torch World citizen held no ties to Atlanta, Georgia, or the USA. He could carry the flag of Afghanistan and Zimbabwe and all the powerful or obscure nations in between with equality. Payne and the ACOG staff were confident Izzy had the versatility and the appeal to take the games to the next Millennium.
Early versions of IzzyFinal version
Choreographer Mike Evans, the first of 42 live Izzy mascots, debuted as “Whatizit” at the Barcelona Closing Ceremony. Volunteers had passed out Whatizit pins for days. Olympic fans, already puzzled by the pins, were shocked by the strange blue creature in big red sneakers with a question for a name. The world, expecting a touch of Southern charm, was not prepared for an “out of this world” mascot! Atlantans were embarrassed by this "mascot disaster".
    ACOG resisted pressure to terminate “Whatizit.” Instead, the mascot underwent a makeover that softened his crude expression. An advisory board of children was assembled to give "Whatizit" a less confusing name. "Kirby," their first choice was vetoed because Nintendo had copyrights to that name. Izzy, their second choice, became Izzy, a Whatizit, citizen of Torch World, and official mascot of the 1996 Olympic Games. Later a second makeover trimmed Izzy down, made him more mobile, and added a cute little red nose.
   "Izzy Bashing", the first competition of the Atlanta Games, began long before the Olympic Team trials. Competitors were not athletes, but journalists taking advantage of Izzy's cold reception. The battle of words was fought out daily in newspapers and magazines as writers made sport of topping each other with Izzy insults. The merciless monikers of the "lets trash the Atlanta mascot craze" were humiliations such as Pizzy, a little mutant monstrosity, a blue blob, a paint spill, toxic waste, an accident, navel lint, a two-headed toad, a sperm in sneakers, Quasismurf, Billy's folly, the product of a bad marriage between the ugliest California Raisin and the Pillsbury Dough Boy and others that bordered on the unprintable. Reporters were repulsed at the thought of toddlers trading their teddy bears for the horrid blue monster. They said Billy Payne's abominable mascot had disgraced Atlanta, blowing its chance to become the next great International City. History would reflect upon the Centennial Games as the "Bubba Games." The Izzy Bashers were so aggressive, people who liked Whatizit were afraid to admit it.
   While the media had its fun, Izzy began training. Unlike human athletes who spend a lifetime practicing for the defining moment of a single sport, Izzy trained for all 271 events on the Atlanta schedule. At 4 1/2 feet tall and wearing size 22 sneakers, the 15 year old "Blue Thing" was looked upon as a joke, not a medal contender.
Izzy trains for Archery Izzy trains for Whitewater Kayaking Izzy Trains for Table TennisIzzy trains for BasketballIzzy trains for Diving  Izzy trains for Weightlifting
   Aided by his amorphous powers, Izzy was faster, stronger and more agile than was humanly possible. World records were surpassed regularly in every sport as Izzy practiced. The more Izzy trained, the more he pondered the consequences and fairness of his superiority. Izzy's mission was not to undermine the Atlanta Games. He wanted to make them special. Sportsmanship and goodwill meant more than hogging up all the medals. Putting others ahead of himself, as he had done in Torch World, Izzy concluded it was only fair to leave the outcome of the medal races to the human athletes. This decision, once made, gave Izzy time to work on changing his image as the little blue monstrosity everybody loved to hate. Repairing his floundering mascot image seemed impossible, but Izzy vowed to give the world its greatest mascot for the 100th anniversary of the Modern Olympic Games. With his power of wisdom and insight, he knew he would not fail.
LaTara Bullock and IzzyIzzy and his Fans   "Izzy Bashings" gave way to "Izzy Sightings." Atlanta Centennial Olympic Properties, the marketing arm of ACOG, had 18 Izzy costumes manufactured by International Mascots. Soon Izzy was everywhere, spreading the Olympic spirit and winning the hearts of young and old alike. The growing demand for Izzy kept his schedule coordinator, LaTara Bullock busy as well as the many volunteers who endured the heat and weight of the costume. Powered by the magic of Izzy the Whatizit morphed within them, the live mascots created an excitement that won over more and more Izzy fans with every appearance. As the Atlanta Games drew near, the crowds of adoring Izzy fans grew into mobs. A great day for any kid was the day he or she scored a hug or posed for a picture with the lovable mascot!
   Souvenirs of anything "Izzy" sold faster than stores could stock them. The sale of Izzy merchandise topped $150,000,000, by far exceeding the record of the previous most successful mascot, Cobi, of the Barcelona '92 Games. Izzy skipped his way across America as a part of the Olympic Torch Relay. He floated along as a gigantic helium filled balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. And yes, that was Izzy having the time of his life at the White House Easter Egg Roll. Izzy was here. Izzy was there. Izzy was everywhere!

   The revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 was an effort to promote worldwide harmony through sports. The concept was perfect, but the world is not. Disgruntled nations take away from the "goodness" of the games with boycotts to make political statements.

   Izzy came to earth not knowing the meaning of "mascot", but he learned his lesson well. Olympic mascots speak or act out an international message that requires no interpretation and is unlimited by boundaries. Izzy was not " an American entity," but a champion of the Olympic Spirit for all the world. It came as no surprise, then, that the Atlanta Olympic Games were the first of the modern era without a boycott. All 197 nations of the International Olympic Committee sent teams.

   Appropriately, the Atlanta mascot accomplished a number of firsts, also. Izzy was the first mascot with his own web site, the first to have his own video game, the first to star in a movie, and the first to become a theme park attraction. The movie, "Izzy's Quest for Olympic Gold," aired as an animated special on TNT, August 12, 1995. It was also distributed internationally. "Wild Ride Izzy" became the world's first Olympic inspired roller coaster at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.

   Izzy kept his promise. He was and still remains the most successful mascot in Olympic history.

   Perhaps the greatest testimonial to the success of Izzy as the Atlanta Olympic Games mascot was a bitter disappointment for Izzy, his creator, and the legion of Izzy lovers throughout the world. ACOG excluded Izzy from the Opening Ceremony and barred him from appearing at venues while games were in progress. The reason: Izzy's presence created such a frenzy of excitement, it would detract from the solemn traditional ceremony or create a side show that would draw the attention of spectators away from the Games. Izzy had to settle for greeting his fans along the fringes or delighting them from his Izzy Mobile in Centennial Park.

 As the "World's Greatest Athlete," Muhammad Ali, lit the torch to begin the Centennial Olympic Games, the "World's Greatest Olympic Mascot," Izzy, was hidden from view. But, who can say he was not there, "morphed" as the Olympic Spirit within the hearts of the 10,320 world class athletes and the 2,000,000 fans who made the Atlanta 1996 Centennial Olympic Games the "World's Greatest Sporting Event?"

Izzy Lives On!
   Coming Soon!

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