Hosting the Olympics costs a lot of money, so when Atlanta won the 1996 Games, organizers had to find a way to pay for it. What’d they do? Sell, sell, sell! They branded everything in sight with sponsor logos. By the time the torch was extinguished, the organizing committee also generated about $100 million in royalty revenue from licensed memorabilia including ball caps, steering wheel locks, and thousands of collectible pins.
Izzy, the bizarre blue blob that served as Atlanta’s Olympic mascot, helped rake in a quarter of that money. Much of the merch bearing its image now sits in the Atlanta History Center’s basement. We recently took a trip to the Izzy archives, where we found memorabilia that in some cases was as strange than the mascot itself.
Whatizit stuffed doll
It all started with the Whatizit doll. Pictured below is the first prototype of the soft toy covered in a stretchy, Spandex-like material.
Whatizit novelty license plate
Your commute could’ve been this much cooler in 1992 if you’d had this on the front of your Ford Escort.
As with every Olympic Games, there was an abundance of collectible pins. In Atlanta, there was an Izzy pin for every official sport. (There were even pins for some sports, like inline skating, that weren’t a part of the Olympics)
Here’s Whatizit, unknowingly waving goodbye to Atlanta, on a plain white tee.
Once the reimagined Izzy was introduced, plush dolls became one of the best-selling pieces of merchandise leading up to the 1996 Olympics.
Izzy ball cap
There were many Izzy hats, some of which still turn up on eBay. None were as absurd as this one with the mascot holding the torch.
Team Izzy or bust.
You could eat off Izzy…
Izzy water bottle
…or drink from an Izzy straw.
You could wear Izzy to bed…
…or wear Izzy in your hair.
Clearly, Izzy ties—in red or black—are pretty rad.
Izzy swim cap
The friendly blue mascot could keep your hair dry in the pool.
And Izzy could dry you off, too.
Tennis racquet cover
In 1995, Spalding sold a tennis racquet cover showing Izzy practicing his swing.
Even though golf wasn’t an Olympic sport in 1996, that didn’t stop someone from making an Izzy putter for kids.
Then-Atlanta Hawks Coach Lenny Wilkens, who led the U.S. men’s basketball team to a gold medal, sadly cut Izzy from his squad.
Izzy computer game
There ain’t no adventure like “Izzy’s Adventure” . . . for Windows 95.
Izzy jigsaw puzzle
If you need family fun, look no further than the 550-piece “Torch World” puzzle.
Izzy could carry your textbooks.
And Izzy could also hold your secrets.
Go ahead, let Izzy protect your hard-earned cash.
Izzy decorative pen
If you need to sign a check, this mascot’s got you covered.
Izzy Payne brick for Centennial Olympic Park
To pay for the new park, Olympic organizers sold roughly a half-million engraved bricks at $35 a piece. Pictured below, says Don Rooney, director of exhibitions at the Atlanta History Center, is a sample brick.
No, these size 22 mascot shoes were never made for the masses. But they’re out there, somewhere. Owning a pair might just be the surest proof of Izzy fandom.
Photographs by Caroline C. Kilgore
For more on the mascot, check out our oral history of Izzy.