The mascots for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics will be mostly made in China, despite the symbols being a point of French pride, and have now become the subject of criticism at a time of concern about nations becoming too dependent on the world’s second-largest economy.
The stuffed Phryges — soft, red smiling hats — are manufactured by French companies Gipsy Toys and Doudou et Compagnie. They use fabric developed in the French region of Brittany, but the toys are primarily manufactured in China. Only about 8% of the mascot will be made in France.
French government spokesman Olivier Véran said the making of the mascots in China was due to a “structural problem.”
“I would love, and we fight for it, that in France, we would be able to have enough raw materials and textile factories to manufacture two million stuffed animals in a few months,” he told France 2 TV. “The fact is that, today, we do not know how to do it.”
He added that the government was trying to relocate French businesses that produce in China in an effort to make sure “we will, tomorrow, be able to produce what we no longer know how to produce today.”
Organizers of the summer games said they zeroed in on choosing a mascot that represented an “ideal” as opposed to an animal or creature.
The Phrygian cap is an updated version of a conical hat worn in antiquity in places such as Persia, the Balkans, Thrace, Dacia and Phrygia, a place in modern day Turkey where the name originates. It later became a symbol of the pursuit of liberty in the French Revolution.
The Paris Olympics are slated to take place from July to August 2024 and the Paralympics will be held in August and September. Sales of the mascots went on sale Tuesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.