After growing public protest, Osem decided Tuesday to remove Bamba Baby from Israel's Olympic symbols. A statement issued Tuesday said that in response to public complaints, the Olympic committee and Osem have decided to disregard all commitments relating to the agreement between them.
However, in order to continue supporting the Israeli Olympic team, Osem will maintain its contribution as a donation to promote Olympic sports in Israel. "Osem wishes the athletes the best of luck and salutes their achievements," the statement said.
Following this decision, the Olympic Committee is now looking for a new symbol. Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat commented: "I am happy the Olympic Committee reconsidered the matter and reached the right decision."
Earlier this week is was reported that the Bamba Baby was chosen to be the official mascot of the Israeli team
The Olympic Committee refused to disclose the sum that Osem, the manufacturer, paid for the honor.
The 2012 Summer Olympics will the first to see the Israeli athletes accompanied by an official symbol.
“For decades, the Bamba Baby as been a beloved character that became a part of the lives of every parent and child in Israel, thus turning into an inseparable part of the Israeli experience,” Secretary General of the Olympic Committee Efraim Zinger said Monday in a statement. “This is why we chose the baby as the official character to represent the Israeli delegation to the Olympic games in London.”
The Bamba Baby is indeed a beloved character, but does the Israeli public consider it worthy of representing it in an event watched worldwide? This past summer, when Israelis across the country were up in arms over the high costs of living, Osem was one of the companies boycotted for its high prices.
Public pressure to change choice?
The decision to feature the Bamba Baby next to the Olympic team was not a government decision, since the Olympic Committee functions independently of the State. Any government intervention in the council’s management could bring to the suspension of the Israeli team from the multinational event.
“Only negative public opinion and public pressure could help in this case,” a government source told Ynet.
A source in the marketing industry added: “Bamba is a brand that symbolizes Israel, just like Coca-Cola Symbolizes Americanism. But becoming an official symbol of the Israeli delegation? That’s a wet dream. This could be crossing the line. What’s next? Replacing the flag with Bissli?”
The Olympic Committee, on the other hand, was pleased with the choice.
“We are forbidden to reveal how much Osem paid us, but this isn’t about the money,” committee spokeswoman Brurya Bigman told Ynet. “This is about commercial cooperation, and the big marketing idea.”
Bigman noted that sponsorships are a vital part of the Olympic team.
“We are already being sponsored by Telma, whose cereal is the Olympic Committee’s official breakfast,” she said. “Marketing and sports, sports and business have gone together for many years. Companies have found that this is what promotes sports.”
Meanwhile, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat urged the Olympic Committee of Israel to reconsider its choice: “The Culture and Sports Ministry cannot intervene in the Olympic Committee’s decisions, but the uproar indicates that the public is uncomfortable with a commercial brand representing the Israeli delegation,” she said.
Meirav Crystal contributed to this report