Where are all the souvenirs of Bing Dwen Dwen in China?
No one expected a shortage of stuffed pandas when China won the right to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. But a week into the Games, the Chinese public seems to have lost interest else.
In the final days before the start of the Beijing Olympics, it seemed that the Chinese public barely noticed the competitions. The streets were decorated with red Lunar New Year lanterns, not the five rings of the Olympics. And coronavirus precautions have made hosting Olympics viewing parties difficult.
Now, however, websites are awash with talk of competitions and athletes, and an unexpected buying frenzy has emerged for Olympic memorabilia. Souvenir coins are selling well. So are Symbolic non-fungible Olympic pins. (NFTs are digital files created using blockchain computer code, much like the code that makes Bitcoin possible.)
And the most popular of all is an 8-inch-tall plush version of the Beijing Olympics mascot – Bing Dwen Dwen, a round panda in an ice costume. The main version of the stuffed animal weighs seven ounces and sells for $30 at 162 official Olympic souvenir stores nationwide. Long queues form every morning to buy limited inventory.
Online toy scalping has also been widespread, despite efforts by authorities to stop it, with prices reportedly running into the hundreds of dollars. Beijing police said on Tuesday they were imposing unspecified administrative penalties on three people they said had “violated normal market operations” by trading Bing Dwen Dwen stuffed animals.
“There are people who have ‘twisted ideas’ and resell at high prices,” police said in an online statement. They attempted to reassure a nervous audience that “active measures have been coordinated to promote production” and that there will be “a steady supply of Bing Dwen Dwen in the market”.
The frenzy around the stuffed animal is unusual, as it’s not even a limited edition. China is the center of the global toy manufacturing industry and produces a large number of stuffed animals. Taxidermied pandas have long been ubiquitous in gift shops and toy stores.
In east-central China’s Jiangsu Province, a major manufacturing area, the Consumer Council has warned producers of counterfeit pandas against copying Bing Dwen Dwen. The council warned the public to avoid hacked pandas.
Xianyu, a popular Chinese second-hand trading website, has halted all transactions involving Bing Dwen Dwen products. This includes the Bing Dwen Dwen keychains, which retail for $9 at authorized stores but reportedly hit $33 in online transactions before trading halted.
On Friday afternoon, a nearly hour-long line of shoppers waited outside the flagship Olympic memorabilia store in downtown Beijing. No one in the line was willing to admit to buying souvenirs to speculate on the price – not even the many middle-aged men in black jackets.
The men insisted they were not panda suppliers but had come to buy stuffed animals for their loved ones.
Inside the store, some counters were empty of merchandise. There was a long queue for the remaining key fobs.
Jiang Chao, a 37-year-old Beijing resident wearing a green coat, said Bing Dwen Dwen’s design appealed to both adults and children. He also saw national pride in the panda’s popularity.
“One of the main reasons is the rise of national brands,” he said. “We are proud of the opening of the Olympic Winter Games. We are also confident in our culture.
When a guard announced that the day’s quota of stuffed animals had been sold out, Zhao Tianyu, a teenager from Beijing, was undeterred.
“No worries,” he said. “We’ll wait here all night.”
Li you contributed to the research.