While Olympic athletes can sometimes seem superhuman, at least one central figure at Friday’s opening ceremony of the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, will not be human at all. This year’s official Olympic mascot, Soohorang, is a white tiger. And, while Soohorang is new to the scene, there are centuries of history behind why the tiger was chosen to represent these particular Winter Olympic Games.
Unpacking the mascot’s name will tell you a lot already. In Korean, “Sooho” means protection, symbolizing “the protection offered to the athletes, spectators and other participants of the 2018 Games,” according to the official Olympics website. The final syllable, “rang,” comes from the Korean word for “tiger,” which is “Ho-rang-i.” And as a nod to the host city, it’s also part of the title of a traditional folk song of the province in which PyeongChang is located.