ADRIAN FLORIDO, HOST:
One of the stars of this year's Winter Olympics is its mascot - a fluffy panda named Bing Dwen Dwen. The stuffed animal version has become so sought after, people are camping out overnight to buy it. NPR's Beijing correspondent Emily Feng lined up to learn why.
UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).
EMILY FENG, BYLINE: The line is long and growing longer outside this Olympics merchandise store in downtown Beijing, despite a loudspeaker blaring the same line over and over - all Bing Dwen Dwen stuffed animals have already sold out today.
LI ZHAOYANG: (Non-English language spoken).
FENG: Li Zhaoyang's still on his Lunar New Year break from high school, and he says he's in line just to get in on all the buzz around Bing Dwen Dwen. He wants to collect the Panda mascot as an Olympics memento. One small problem, I tell him - Bing Dwen Dwen is sold out. Even the 500 pandas allotted for pre-sale orders today have been nabbed by people who lined up outside the night before.
Bing Dwen Dwen, or ice chubster as his name roughly translates as, has skyrocketed in popularity all of a sudden, in part due to scarcity. Factories churning out the soft collectibles are limiting production, and that's fueled a kind of mindless mania online. Rose Ling and her young daughter say they're in line because they saw a line and decided they wanted to join the party.
ROSE LING: (Non-English language spoken).
FENG: "The line was huge," she says. "It wrapped around the corner just a few minutes ago. So we jumped in, only to find out Bing Dwen Dwen is sold out."
For the more open-minded, there are other options. The Beijing Olympic Committee actually designed a second mascot for next month's Paralympics named Shuey Rhon Rhon. It's a red dancing lantern available in cute stuffed animal form as well, but no one seems very eager.
ROGER LI: (Non-English language spoken).
FENG: "Shuey Rhon Rhon is just too ugly," exclaims Roger Li. He's come with his friend to see what else Olympics-themed they can buy, given Bing Dwen Dwen is beyond their purchasing power.
LI: (Non-English language spoken).
FENG: "Scalpers are selling the swaddled-up panda for up to 300 U.S. dollars," he says. Then he catches himself. "Am I allowed to say that for broadcast? Do you need an answer that's more in line with Chinese socialist values?"
By the time I got into the Olympic souvenir shop, only a few gold bracelets and pins were left. No Bing Dwen Dwen. I could, however, sign up for a new credit card to enter a lottery for a chance to win one of the coveted bears.
Emily Feng, NPR News, Beijing.
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