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Salt Lake City Weekly Man-Eating Mascot

The insatiable need of Jean-Claude Ganga.

By D.P. Sorensen

JANUARY 25, 1999:  Now that Frank Joklik has abdicated his throne, employees of SLOC can indulge their wacky senses of comedy.

Of course, there has been quite a bit of inadvertent humor in various SLOC communications, mainly having to do with putting on the Olympics for the sake of the Children of Utah (less money has been spent on them than on fancy guns for His Excellency Juan Antonio Samaranch and on friendly female escorts for visiting IOC grandees).

But now the folks at SLOC can really cut it up in public, trying out stand-up comedy routines in front of local audiences before appearing at larger venues. Just last week, one SLOC spokesperson announced that the Olympic mascots would not be unveiled as planned. According to this official, "We want to introduce the mascots in an atmosphere of community celebration. This is not the appropriate time." Now comes the punch-line: "Our mascots should receive the positive attention they deserve."

It's a shame, really, that the Olympic mascots should be victimized in any way by scandal they had no way of knowing about.

The Olympic Spirit may have run out of gas, but the spirit of comedy thrives. High-placed sources have provided me with documents that reveal the identity of the Mascot in Chief. Ganga is his name, and if that rings a bell, it's because the cuddly stuffed animal is an uncanny replica of Jean-Claude Ganga, the insatiable IOC member from the Congo. His Highness Ganga, you remember, was the grateful beneficiary of medical treatment, sweetheart land-deals and $70,000 in cash in a grocery sack delivered by former Olympic emissary Tom Welch.

Bob Garff's garage is now stuffed to the rafters with the Ganga dolls. After a vigorous game of Ping-Pong, Bob invited me out to the garage to get a sneak peak at the Mascot in Chief. "A cute little guy, don't you think?" asked Bob after handing me the amazingly lifelike Ganga, with his winning smile, his chubby belly, his grasping hands.

"Go ahead, give his belly-button a poke," said Bob with a chuckle.

"I need money," said Ganga.

"Watch this," said Bob. "This is really cool."

The Ganga doll's mouth opened wide and stuck out its tongue.

"Go ahead and stick a quarter on his tongue," said Bob.

I dug around in my pockets and found the quarter I always keep with me in case I run into the mayor begging for money over on Washington Square. No sooner was the coin placed on Ganga's tongue than he gobbled it down. He almost took my finger off.

"Neat, huh?" said Bob. "Poke him again."

"I'm out of quarters," I said.

"That's all right, he'll eat anything."

I proceeded to empty my pockets of nickels, dimes, pennies and even some Dutch guilders left over from the wild week I spent with Tom Welch and some Norwegian scholarship recipients.

Each time I pushed his belly button, the Mascot in Chief would respond with another noble Olympic request. "I need liposuction for my daughter ... I need breast implants for my niece ... I need jokliks for naked boys playing soccer in Congo ... I need land deals near Olympic venues."

I soon ran out of available cash. "Isn't he a cute little guy?" asked Bob. "He's got a million of 'em. Now, another neat thing is that you can use little Ganga here as a piggy-bank. The only thing SLOC asks is that after you pay your tithing, you dig deep into your heart and in the Olympic Spirit send off a little contribution to our headquarters. As you know, we still have to raise several hundred million dollars."

My experience with Ganga had filled my soul with the Olympic Spirit, and so I asked Bob if Ganga would take a personal check. "Oh sure," said Bob. "He's not choosy."

I wrote out a check and poked Ganga in the belly.

"I need naked escorts to play soccer for me in my Little America Hotel room," he said, and stuck out his tongue. I placed my carefully folded check on his red Velcro tongue, but did not get my fingers out of the way quickly enough.

"Oh, goodness, that's a nasty bite," said Bob. "Let's take you to one of our official IHC physicians. He'll fix you up for free."

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