A chubby round panda decked out in a suit of ice has become a national sensation in China, with shoppers in Beijing lining up in freezing temperatures overnight for the chance to buy stuffed versions of the Winter Olympics mascot.
Those who don’t want to queue are paying as much as 17-times the retail price for toys featuring the panda named Bing Dwen Dwen. Prices have surged so much on the secondary market—stuffed toys are selling for more than $500 online—that police in Beijing have issued public warnings against buying the mascot from scalpers, and as of Wednesday punished three people in a crackdown over price gouging.
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The start of the Winter Olympics in Beijing, which kicked off Feb. 4, has helped fuel the frenzy, as have social media memes of the mascot dancing at the opening ceremony and struggling to squeeze through doors. A clip of Chinese President Xi Jinping suggesting Prince Albert II of Monaco bring two of the toys home for his twins has further propelled Bing Dwen Dwen’s popularity.
Exacerbating the situation has been a shortfall in supplies. Because the opening ceremony fell in the middle of the Lunar New Year holiday this year, many of the factories producing Bing Dwen Dwen toys were closed just as demand for the mascot surged.
Zhao Weidong, a spokesperson for the Beijing Winter Olympics, pledged at a Feb. 6 briefing that officials were taking steps to remedy the situation. “We’re now making efforts to coordinate the production and supply of Bing Dwen Dwen,” Zhao said.
Shares of Beijing Yuanlong Yato Culture Dissemination Co., one of several licensed manufacturers of Olympic products, surged by the 10% daily limit for a third day in Shenzhen on Wednesday. The company, whose products include Bing Dwen Dwen fluffy toys and badges, has said production is back in full swing. Shanghai-listed Cultural Investment Holdings Co., another licensed product maker, has also seen its stock soar by the daily limit for three straight days.
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But back in Beijing, 54-year-old Dong Yanxue has queued up outside the official Olympics souvenir store in the city’s Wangfujing shopping district, equipped with a chair, food and beer. Dong says he had earlier waited two nights in line to be able to buy just one stuffed Bing Dwen Dwen for his niece. He was back to try his luck again Tuesday afternoon, even as a loudspeaker outside the store played a recorded message saying its Bing Dwen Dwen toys were out of stock and asking people not to wait in line.
“I would rather have some drinks at home at this hour,” Dong said, but “the kids want it badly.”
—With assistance from Sarah Chen and Colum Murphy
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