‘Tis the season for the Olympics—a steamy, leap year summer with plenty of controversy and plenty of anticipation. My own interest in the upcoming games was piqued when my in-laws, in Beijing on business, mailed my two-year-old son a package of Olympics mascots. They are wild, creepy, yet endearing stuffed animals, and they spurred my interest in what other interesting Olympics merchandise—from past, present, and future—is on the market.
Here are some of my favorites, starting with my son’s new cuddly friends.
There are five Beijing mascots (called Fuwa), made to represent the color and number of Olympic rings. The mascots look like little children, yet at the same time exemplify the characteristics of a panda, a fish, a Tibetan antelope, a swallow, and the Olympic flame. The stuffed animals are perfect souvenirs to regale on a youngster. I don’t know whether it’s the spiky hair or the big, droopy eyes, but my son likes to hug and slobber on his mascots. You don’t even have to travel to China to buy these. For $49.99, a set of five can be purchased on Amazon.com .
Because we don’t want to sugarcoat the Beijing Olympics—there are loads of reasons why people are angry that imperfect China is the grand host—let’s look beyond the cuddly mascots. If you want to make a statement about global politics while commemorating the 2008 Beijing Olympics, check out these $21.99 t-shirts  featuring handcuffs in lieu of the five Olympic rings. You can get them in a variety of colors and sizes; you can even get a toddler size if you’re looking for a hipster gift for the next boring baby shower you’re forced to attend.
Carrying the Torch
This official torch  was used in the run from Olympia to Athens, Greece, for the 1968 Mexico City games. While the price tag is a hefty $2,250, the history behind it is equally hefty. It’s one of five designs created for different segments of the Torch Run, and on August 23, 1968, “its journey followed the course of Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the New World, symbolizing the union of the classic cultures of the Mediterranean with those of America.” The flame traveled 8,200 miles and was carried by 2,778 runners before arriving at the Olympic Stadium on October 12. It would make a great mantle centerpiece—or hand weight for your next training run.
It’s in the Bag
If you’re the kind of person who likes to sling your patriotism across your shoulder, consider this $64 Adidas Olympic handbag , a durable polyurethane purse with the Olympic torch emblem displayed across the front. The red, white, and blue accessory will free you up to wear anything you want, while still identifying you as an American and Olympics devotee.
Miracle on My Shirt
Members of the 1980 U.S. hockey team stunned the world—and possibly themselves—when they beat the seemingly invincible Soviets in the Olympic games at Lake Placid. Sports Illustrated wrote about the Miracle on Ice: “It might just be the most indelible moment in all of U.S. sports history. One that sent an entire nation into a frenzy.” If you want a piece (albeit a very expensive piece) of this history, consider the $749.95 “authentic style” 1980 USA Olympics hockey shirt  signed by most of the members of the team.
Blinded by the Light of My Vest
I was in Atlanta for a portion of the 1996 Olympics, and while I (thankfully) missed the Centennial Olympic Park bombing, I didn’t miss conversations with people who had purchased portions of the track that Michael Johnson tread in his gold shoes, or Olympics stadium chairs people bought for their homes. But I think those mementos are not as practical as this orange accessory. Put on your sunglasses and get ready for Halloween. Is there a better costume than the iridescent orange “Olympic Stadium” usher vest  with black trim and drawstrings? I don’t think so. For only $20, you can offer friends a slice of authority and humor.
Try These Tighties
Tired of your man hiding his hunky figure underneath a baggy swimsuit? This Olympics season you can buy him a Speedo Team USA brief  for $38.20—a lot of bang for your buck when you consider the high-tech materials it’s made from. I’m not sure what “Antron Nylon” and “Xtralife Lycra” are, but they sound strong, suave, and speedy.
Tonya Harding … Enough Said
If you’re anything like me, you secretly enjoy the Olympics’ seediest moments more than the pure, tear-jerking feats of strength and endurance. So imagine my delight when I found this 16×20 autographed Tonya Harding figure skating photograph  for sale. (To jog your memory, Tonya Harding allegedly conspired to attack her competitor in the 1994 Olympics, Nancy Kerrigan. She received three years of probation, 500 hours of community service and a $160,000 fine.) Now I’m going to look for some Zola Budd memorabilia to bring back memories of her girl fight with Mary Decker Slaney.
Next Stop: Vancouver
If you want to get ahead of the games, look toward Vancouver in 2010. The Quatchi, one of the carefully selected mascots for the winter games, is a “young sasquatch who comes from the mysterious forests of Canada. Quatchi is shy, but loves to explore new places and meet new friends.” You can purchase a Quatchi mouse pad for a mere $16 and bring him home with you. Just remember that his favorite color is “chill blue,” and he loves to try foods of all kinds.
Beyond these online treasures, I’m sure that the choicest Olympics souvenirs are ones that you can buy from illegal street vendors during the games. Here’s a challenge to the lucky souls who are going to Beijing on 08.08.08—take pictures and share them.