We don't know why, exactly, every Olympics has to have a mascot (we assume it's the same reason George Lucas created Jar Jar Binks), but we do know this: The trio of characters the Salt Lake Organizing Committee has come up with for 2002 kicks the snot out of the embarrassment of a mascot we had for Atlanta in 1996.
SALT LAKE 2002
Mascot: A trio of fuzzy animals: "Powder," a hare; "Copper," a coyote; and "Coal," a bear.
Resembles: A pack of Hanna-Barbera escapees who've discovered a stash of crystal meth in a picnic basket.
Relevance: Indigenous Utah fauna chosen to represent the Olympic motto: "Swifter, Higher, Stronger."
Inspiration: Native American legends.
Public Reaction: Measured approval.
Fitting End: Fading, not without dignity, from silkscreens on thousands of unsold T-shirts.
Mascot: A digitally generated shmoo, "Izzy the Whatizit." But what is it? Exactly.
Resembles: A cross between a paisley, a turd, and a dental-hygiene promotion.
Relevance: None. Or perhaps the Atlanta planners wished to evoke the banality of the Buckhead strip malls.
Inspiration: Doritos-munching focus groups.
Public Reaction: Shocked embarrassment.
Fitting End: Recalled, collected, dunked in acid, incinerated, and subjected to complete subatomic annihilation.