Red faces in France over Olympic mascots made in China

PARIS (AFP) — The choice by Paris 2024 Olympics officials to represent the Games with a cuddly Phrygian cap is proving a harder sell than expected, after critics pounced on the fact that French firms will make only a small fraction of the toys.

This photograph taken on November 10, 2022, shows the mascots for the Paris 2024 Olympic (right) and Paralympic Games ‘Les Phryges’ in Saint-Denis, north of Paris. The name of Paris 2024 Olympic and Paralympic mascots “Les Phryges”, representing French revolutionary Phrygian caps, was announced on November 14, 2022. (AFP)

Unveiled on Monday, the red triangle mascots named the Phryges are meant to symbolize the French Revolution, when anti-monarchists often wore the cap that is nowadays seen on the Marianne icon of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in nearly all public buildings.

But even though two French toymakers got the contract, the Paris Olympics committee said just eight percent of the mascots will be made in France -- from Chinese-produced materials -- and the remainder outsourced to China.

The Ethic business owners' association denounced "an insult to all French companies" and said there was still time to produce the millions of toys at home.

"I would love to, and we're working so that France can have the raw materials and textile factories for making two million dolls in a few months, but the fact is that today we cannot do it," government spokesman Olivier Veran said on Thursday.

"It's a structural problem due to the fact that for years, France has lost its factories," he told France 2 television.

Climate activists also contrasted the pollution that will be generated from shipping the toys to France with the government's pledge to take stronger action against global warming.

France's environmental transition minister, Christophe Bechu, called the decision to outsource "a problem".

"I would like to believe that we still have a few months before the Games begin to rectify this," he told France Info radio on Tuesday.

"We're not going to find ourselves, at a time when we're saying we need local distribution networks and re-industrialisation, producing mascots on the other side of the world, especially when we're defending the fight against global warming," he said.

The Paris Games organisers defended the fact that the toy replicas are almost all made in China, "like the great majority of toys sold in France".