VANCOUVER, Canada, November 27 /PRNewswire/ --

- Miga, Quatchi and Sumi Make Their Debut Before Hundreds of Schoolchildren, and on Vancouver2010.com

Months of mystery and anticipation finally ended today as hundreds of local schoolchildren were the first to personally meet Miga, Quatchi and Sumi, the mascots for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. Many more children around the globe had a virtual introduction to these friendly figures on a new mascot microsite at http://www.vancouver2010.com.

More than 800 schoolchildren from grades three to five filled the Bell Performing Arts Centre in Surrey, BC today to witness three enchanting characters emerge from the mists of a magical West Coast setting of gigantic trees, soaring mountains and a restless ocean, to take their place in history as cherished personalities of the 2010 Winter Games.

Designed by the Vancouver-based company Meomi Design, Miga, Quatchi and Sumi were inspired by local Aboriginal mythological creatures and also strongly influenced by popular culture, modern animation styles, the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, the culture and wildlife of British Columbia and Canada, and the artists' own imagination. Each of the creatures is unique, both in personality and physical appearance.

Miga is a snowboarding sea bear inspired by the legends of the Pacific Northwest First Nations - tales of orca whales that transform into bears when they arrive on land. Part Spirit Bear, a rare white bear unique to BC, Miga's outgoing spirit and high energy draw her to action and adventure.

Quatchi, a shy and gentle giant, is a sasquatch - a popular figure in local Aboriginal legends of the Pacific West Coast. Quatchi reminds us of the mystery and wonder associated with the great Canadian wilderness. Although Quatchi loves all winter sports, he's especially fond of hockey and dreams of becoming a world-famous goalie.

Sumi is an animal spirit who wears the hat of the orca whale, flies with the wings of the mighty thunderbird and runs on the furry legs of the black bear. With a name that is derived from the Salish word 'sumesh,' meaning 'guardian spirit,' Sumi is passionate about the environment and is a fan of all Paralympic sports.

Joining the three mascots is a friend, or 'sidekick,' by the name of Mukmuk. Mukmuk is a rare marmot unique to the mountains of Vancouver Island. While he's not officially a mascot, Mukmuk is considered an honourary member of the team and enjoys surprising his friends by popping up on occasion to share in the spirit and fun of the Games. Mukmuk's name comes from the Squamish word for food ('muckamuck') because he loves to eat - when he's not playing with his mascot friends.

People across Canada and around the world are meeting the mascots on a specially designed mascot 'microsite' at vancouver2010.com. The microsite includes exciting child-friendly features such as an animated mascot video, character profiles, an online game, a mascot-related personality quiz, interactive e-cards, colouring pages and more.

"Miga, Quatchi and Sumi are ambassadors for Canada and we are thrilled to introduce them to Canadians and people from around the world," said John Furlong, Chief Executive Officer for the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC). "Great care has been taken in developing and designing these Vancouver 2010 characters. They will tell a unique story about the Games and they will appeal to children across Canada and around the world. The mascots truly represent the people, geography and spirit of British Columbia and Canada, while personifying the essence of the 2010 Winter Games." The mascots are a key component of the Games identity and a playful way to engage a young audience and, at the same time, increase understanding of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. The mascot launch represents a significant milestone on the road to staging the 2010 Winter Games.

Said René Fasel, Chairman of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Coordination Commission: "The IOC welcomes these imaginative new additions to the Olympic Family as they take their place on the world stage today - a symbol of the Games and of Canada. We know that when Olympians, Paralympians and visitors from around the globe arrive in British Columbia at Games time, they will fall under the spell of these captivating characters."

Noted Sir Philip Craven, President of the International Paralympic Committee: "The mascot for the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games is an excellent choice and I am sure that it will be loved by children all over the world. It represents the values of the Paralympic Movement, but also links to the Aboriginal Canadian culture and tradition."

The second phase of the vancouver2010.com mascot program is scheduled for 2008, when additional online games and interactive features will be added. The online program takes traditional Games mascots to a new level, leveraging the reach of the internet so that children around the world can experience the mascots. The mascots will also be featured in the December issue of /EDU (at http://www.vancouver2010.com/edu), an online portal dedicated to connecting teachers, students and schools while celebrating the spirit of the 2010 Winter Games.

Beginning tomorrow, the mascots will make appearances across Canada as ambassadors of the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, inviting Canadians from coast to coast to celebrate Vancouver 2010, as well as bringing fun and goodwill to events leading up to the Games. At Games time, these friendly figures will make appearances throughout the Vancouver region and the Sea-to-Sky corridor, offering a warm welcome to all.

VANOC is responsible for the planning, organizing, financing and staging of the XXI Olympic Winter Games and the X Paralympic Winter Games in 2010. The 2010 Olympic Winter Games will be staged in Vancouver and Whistler from February 12 to 28, 2010. Vancouver and Whistler will host the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 to 21, 2010.

For further information: Media Contacts: Katie Green, Vancouver 2010, +1(778)-328-6473; Margaret Nevin, Vancouver 2010, +1(778)328-6475