China will increase the supply of merchandise featuring "Bing Dwen Dwen", the panda mascot of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics, the organising committee said on Sunday.
The announcement came as Chinese media and internet users reported difficulty in purchasing souvenirs in the likeness of the chubby panda in a hard, transparent body suit. Many had queued for hours in cold weather outside a flagship store in Beijing but failed to get the soft toys and other decorations.
"We are paying close attention to this problem ... we are coordinating (with factories) to increase supply of 'Bing Dwen Dwen'," Zhao Weidong, a spokesman of the Beijing Olympics organising committee, told a news conference.
Zhao said the tight supply of "Bing Dwen Dwen" was partly because the manufacturing plants were shut down for the week-long Lunar New Year, which overlaps with the Olympics.
"This issue reflects the popularity of the Beijing Winter Olympics, and also demonstrates the achievement of engaging 300 million Chinese in winter sports."
Rarely have mascots sold out after the first few days of any Olympics let alone become household names so quickly. Some mascots remain almost in obscurity even during the Games, as was the case at the 2018 Rio de Janeiro Olympics with "Vinicius" or the 2002 Salt Lake City trio of Powder the hare, Copper the coyote and Coal the black bear.
Analysts from Shanxi Securities estimate the total revenue from selling Beijing Olympic licensed products could reach 2.5 billion yuan ($394.80 million) during the Games.
"One Dwen at each family" has become the No.4 most trending topic on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, with 10.38 million viewers in the past 24 hours. Chinese internet users are calling for the organisers to meet the surging demand.
Many said on social media that possessing an Olympics souvenir would make them feel more a part of the Games, which has been devoid of most spectators as tickets to events were not sold to the public to curtail the spread of Covid-19.
"To show that I am actively participating in the Winter Olympics, I am making all efforts is get a 'Bing Dwen Dwen' home," wrote a Weibo user named "famous European".