Back in 1988, two cute and cuddly polar bears decked out in western wear ushered in Calgary’s Winter Olympics. The unlikely couple were the first twin mascots in Olympic Games history—with Hidy going for gold as the first female mascot.
Calgary artist Sheila Scott chose polar bears knowing they would appeal to children and understanding that twins could interact with one another, making for a much more interesting show than a solo mascot. Together the dynamic (albeit furry) duo attempted various winter sports with comedic results, and their joint antics were indeed a hit with kids and adults alike.
Hidy and Howdy made their first public appearance at the closing ceremonies of the 1984 Sarajevo Olympics. Seventeen year-old Calgary student Kim Johnston won the name-the-bears contest with monikers that resonated with westerners (Howdy) and Europeans (Hidy or Heidi). Before, during, and after the ’88 Olympics, an incredible 140 students from Bishop Carroll High School took turns donning the costumes at over 50,000 appearances at schools, community events, and sporting events.
Since Hidy and Howdy, many other Olympic organizing committees have followed suit, creating cuddly, approachable characters, including the memorable Miga, Quatchi and Sumi at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.
The twin polar bears were retired from the “Welcome to Calgary” highway signs in 2007 — a change that caused some outcry — but they remain the “face of the Games” for many.
Hidy and Howdy represent a much beloved and majestic Canadian icon of the wild. Now almost 30 years later, with polar bears struggling to survive, Calgary’s ’88 Olympic mascots remind us of a more innocent time, and our duty to care and act.
Want to learn more?
Read It’s How You Play the Game: The inside story of the Calgary Olympics by Frank W. King; XV Olympic Winter Games: The Official Commemorative Book by Lloyd Robertson and Brian D. Johnson; The Games of Winter: A Special Issue, Macleans Magazine.