‘I must have one!’ The mascot race is on

BEIJING, Feb 5 (Reuters) – Hours after the Beijing Winter Olympics officially opened on Friday night, shoppers lined up in the freezing cold of pre-dawn to get their hands on what, for lot, will be the Games’ biggest prize – merchandise featuring the panda mascot “Bing Dwen Dwen”.

Souvenirs featuring the chubby bear in a tough, transparent jumpsuit – figurines, stuffed animals and dangling decorations – were sold at 2 p.m. Saturday at a flagship store in downtown Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping district.

“That’s so cute! I must have one!” said May, seven, as she lined up to buy items featuring Bing Dwen Dwen, whose name officially translates to “Ice Child” but includes a “roly poly” description.

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May was too late.

Her mother, Ye Yingyi, who said she couldn’t find any in-stock items online, promised her a future visit.

Although it was hard to escape the hype ahead of the Games which are taking place in the Chinese capital from February 4-20, Olympic fever had not yet fully set in, with people instead focusing on the Lunar New Year holiday which began on February 1.

“We’ve been selling for a year and it’s quiet,” said a store security guard who declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“Then suddenly, yesterday and especially today, the mob came out of nowhere and grabbed the entire one-year supply,” he said, adding that there was no had limits on purchases, which meant that some people had purchased large quantities.

Disappointed customers were urged to return after Wednesday, when factories would have resumed production after the holidays and stocks would have replenished.

Ren Yi, 24, had wanted to buy a set of seven Bing Dwen Dwen figures for his girlfriend but left empty-handed.

“We love toy figures in general, but this set would be special because it would be something we will remember the Beijing Winter Olympics with,” he said.

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Reporting by Yew Lun Tian and Muyu Xu; Editing by Tony Munroe

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