A fluffy panda mascot is all the rage at the Winter Olympics
BEIJING — One of the stars of this year's Winter Olympic Games is its mascot: a fluffy panda named Bing Dwen Dwen.
The stuffed animal version has become so sought after that people are camping overnight to buy it.
Outside one of Beijing's largest official Olympic merchandise store, the line is long and growing longer — despite a loudspeaker blaring the same line over and over: All Bing Dwen Dwen stuffed animals have sold out for the day.
Li Zhaoyang's still on his Lunar New Year break from high school, and he says he joined the line one day just to get in on all the buzz around Bing Dwen Dwen. He wants to collect the panda mascot as an Olympics memento.
One small problem I tell him: Bing Dwen Dwen is sold out. Even the 500 pandas allotted for pre-sale orders have been nabbed by people who lined up outside the store the night before.
Even those customers aren't so lucky. They will only be able to pick up their orders during the last week of February, after the Olympics Games have ended.
Bing Dwen Dwen, or "ice chubster" as his name roughly translates to, has skyrocketed in popularity all of a sudden, in part due to scarcity. Factories churning soft collectibles are limiting production. The shortage has fueled a kind of mindless mania on social media for all things Bing Dwen Dwen.
Outside the Olympics store, Rose Ling and her young daughter also say they are in line simply to see what all the fuss is about.
"The line was huge just a few minutes ago," she says. "It wrapped around the corner just a few minutes ago, so we jumped in only to find out Bing Dwen Dwen is sold out."
For the more open-minded, there are other options. The Beijing Olympic Committee designed a Paralympics mascot named Xue Rongrong, a dancing red lantern available in cute, stuffed animal form as well.
But no one seems very eager.
"Xue Rongrong is just too ugly," says Roger Li, who's come with his friend to see what other Olympics-themed tchotchkes they can buy given Bing Dwen Dwen is beyond their purchasing power.
Scalpers are selling the swaddled up panda for up to Rmb2000 (about $300) he says, but then catches himself: "Am I allowed to say that for broadcast? Do you need an answer that's more in line with Chinese socialist values?" he asks NPR.
By the time I got into the Olympic souvenir shop, only a few gold bracelets and pins were left. No Bing Dwen Dwen. I could, however, sign up for a new credit card to enter a lottery for a chance to win one of the coveted bears.
Aowen Cao contributed research from Beijing.
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