When Paris proudly unveiled its mascot for the 2024 Olympics and Paralympics, the Phryge, it insisted the red triangular ambassador for the Games was a nod to the French Revolution, a “symbol of freedom” and to “show the world that sport can change everything”.
Organisers insisted the cuddly figures with tricolour ribbons were based on the Phrygian cap that has come to embody the values of the French Republic and is worn by iconic French figure Marianne in every town hall around the country.
However, many French commentators, mostly female, suggested the mascot hit an altogether different spot.
“We’re all in agreement it’s not a Phrygian cap at all but a full-blown clitoris?”, remarked Mathilde Meslin, a French journalist whose online observations were widely shared, causing much mirth.
“I’m sorry but if you airbrush out its little trainers and the French flag and there you go!”, she insisted.
“Thank you, that was my first reaction. Now I feel less alone,” remarked another female online commentator.
State cultural radio station France Culture picked up on the online conversation with Guillaume Erner, a sociologist and radio host, waxing lyrical on “the Olympic clitoris”.
“This is a first. By placing the Olympic Games under the authority of this female organ, our country is making a strong statement,” he said.
“It’s excellent news for female pleasure and the world’s general education,” he insisted. “Nobody can now say with impunity that the clitoris is the latest Toyota model.”
“It would have been funnier if this thing had made it to Qatar on the pitch opposite the emir,” said one commentator in reference to the upcoming football World Cup.
Unfazed, Tony Estinguet, the Paris 2024 president, insisted that the mascot was indeed a breath of fresh air as “we chose an ideal rather than an animal”.
At its launch on Monday, organisers said the Phryges – pronounced fri-jee-uhs – “are sporty, love to party … and are so French”.
‘It’s a problem’
However, on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron’s government was not amused to learn that these symbols of Gallic national pride – held under the banner of “environmental excellence” – are in fact being made thousands of miles away in China.
The two French companies in charge of making two million of the mascots are basing at least 80 per cent of production in the Asian country, with only eight per cent being made in France.
Asked whether this was an issue, Christophe Béchu, the French environment minister, said: “It’s a problem.”
“At a time when we are explaining that we need local distribution channels and need to restore local production, we can’t find ourselves making mascots at the other side of the world, especially when we’re supposed to be fighting against climate change,” he told France Info.
“I would like to think that with a few months to go before the games, we can rectify this situation,” he said. In its defence, the Olympic Committee said that “the vast majority of cuddly toys sold in France” come from China.