The newly-revealed Paris 2024 mascots are based on an ideal embodied by a Phrygian Cap ©Paris 2024

Mascots for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics have been revealed here today and are based on the enduring idea of liberty, taking the form of Phrygian caps, the headwear that has symbolised freedom for the French for centuries.

But while these uniquely cerebral Games mascots carry intellectual freight, the caps have been rendered as cute, smurf-like figures calculated to capture the imagination of young followers.

Julie Matikhine, brand director of Paris 2024, revealed that the most important attribute of the mascot had been "meaning."

Noting that previous Games mascots have usually been animals representative of the host country - and bears in particular - or specially commissioned symbols created by top designers, Matikhine insisted: "What is important for you to understand is that Paris 2024 really decided not to do that.

"We are absolutely not in an approach of symbolising through an animal or finding the famous designer that could have an idea instead of us.

"Not at all.

"What we have been searching for is meaning.

"Meaning comes first each time Paris 2024 is designing or creating something.

"This is extremely important to us because we wanted to have a mascot with something to say.

"To be honest, at one time we even considered that perhaps it was better not to have any mascot rather than have a mascot with no precise purpose or meaning.

"We were asking ourselves - what could be a mascot that could embody, really embody, the French spirit?"

The respective Olympic and Paralympic mascots for Paris 2024, revealed today, embody the idea of liberty - but in a cuddly way ©Paris 2024
The respective Olympic and Paralympic mascots for Paris 2024, revealed today, embody the idea of liberty - but in a cuddly way ©Paris 2024

Matikhine added: "And then it came to us that the right answer would be not an animal but an ideal.

"And for the very first time in the history of the Games the mascot isn’t an animal but really an ideal.

"We wanted the Paris 2024 mascot to be entitled to have a view and to share it with the world. 

"This is why the mascots of Paris 2024 are … Phrygian caps.

"We believe that sport can change everything.

"And now we need to convince French people of the power of sport.

"And this is why our two Phrygian caps, one for the Olympics and one for the Paralympics, with their reference to the French Revolution, they come to make a new revolution with people in France, which is the revolution by sport."

The Phrygian cap, sometimes known as the liberty cap, is a soft, conical piece of headwear with its apex bent over at the top which derives its name from one of the kingdoms of classical antiquity in which it was first worn - Phrygia, in what is now Turkey.

A form of the cap became popular in ancient Rome, being worn by emancipated slaves and associated with the Roman goddess Libertas.

It later featured in the Coat of Arms of certain republics or of Republican State institutions in the place where a crown would otherwise have been used and it thus came to be identified as a symbol of Republican Government.

In France, most famously, a Phrygian cap is worn by Marianne, personifying the concept of freedom, in Eugene Delacroix’s painting Liberty Leading the People, which celebrates the French Revolution of 1830.

In France, the Phrygian cap represents the concept of freedom ©Getty Images
In France, the Phrygian cap represents the concept of freedom ©Getty Images

"This is perhaps the most well-known reference in art to a cap," Matikhine added.

"It is also present in all the institutions here in France, in the schools and the city halls.

"It is more than the symbol of freedom, it is also the symbol of our Republic, of the way of living together that we share here in France.

"It is also in our daily lives through stamps and also the old coins, in francs.

"And most importantly it is also something that is taught to the children in schools.

"From the age of nine the children are told about the Phrygian Ceap signification and the story behind it and the values of freedom, of liberty, equality and fraternity.

"So this is the meaning, the deep sense of our mascot. And now, what could it look like?

"Because we understand the purpose - but now the shape.

"It needs to be cute.

"It needs to address the kids.

"It is of course full of meaning but it must also be attractive.

"And this is where I’m very happy to introduce to you the Phryges - small Phrygian caps, symbols of freedom and allegorical figures of the French Republic.

"The Phryges are the members of a tribe, a little like the Minions (chec) or the Smurfs, but they are Phrygian caps.

"The Olympic Phryge is a bit smaller, the Paralympic Phryge is a bit slimmer and has a blade on his right leg because it is a Phyrge with an impairment.

"The two share an Olympic motto - 'Alone we go faster - but together we go further.'"