With the first medals awarded at the Winter Olympics, the internet exploded with a singular question: why were athletes given a “teddy bear” instead of their hard won gold, silver and bronze medallion?
Immediately after winning their events, athletes stand on a podium as a procession of women wrapped in red coats with white faux fur trim bring out three trays, each with an identical rag doll of the official Olympic mascot.
It turns out it is not a “teddy bear” at all, but a white tiger considered a guardian animal in Korean mythology.
The arrangement has led to awkward images of emotional athletes beaming mere minutes after becoming Olympic champions, standing on a podium with an unfamiliar plush toy.
A similar version of the toy sells for 25,000 Korean won (£16.70) at the official Olympic store and is made in China.
In previous years athletes were given flowers and medals are given out immediately after the events during the summer Games.
Athletes in Pyeongchang do eventually get medals, but at a joint ceremony later in the evening.
“The flower ceremony, or in this case the cuddly toy ceremony, is a longstanding tradition,” said Mark Adams, director of communications for the International Olympic Committee. “With the outdoor events it’s quite obvious,” he added, referring to the subzero temperatures at many mountain venues.
The practice of staging some sort of ceremony immediately after winter events started at the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy.
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