Riley Brandt, University of Calgary
Sept. 28, 2022
Kumi the prehistoric Kumimanu penguin makes his debut as Olympic Oval's new mascot
UCalgary’s Rex is about to have a new best friend on campus — Kumimanu, or ‘Kumi’ as his friends call him, made his debut during the Olympic Oval’s 35th anniversary.
Kumi is from New Zealand and decided to move to Calgary to train at the Olympic Oval. After trying out many traditional Kiwi sports (rugby, football and cricket), Kumi discovered speedskating and knew it was the sport for him right away. He wanted to train on "the fastest ice in the world" and knew that the Olympic Oval was the place to be. Kumi is the Oval’s newest mascot and prehistoric pal to Dinos Rex. Kerry Dankers, business operations manager at the Olympic Oval, says:
Kumi is a wonderful addition to the Oval — a modern changeup to our mascot and a fitting prehistoric character to represent the Oval and the University of Calgary.
Kumi’s journey from New Zealand is an epic story that started in 2021. The Oval contracted Calgary’s Street Characters to help design, build, and fabricate a new mascot that represents high performance, well-being and fitness — cornerstones of the Oval’s three-tiered mandate to service the UCalgary, high-performance and greater Calgary community.
“We knew we had to update the mascot because the Oval is 35 years old. The next stage in our story required a new character that will take us into the next 35 years,” says Robert Porter, interim manager, partner and guest relations.
The Oval marketing team worked for weeks researching and figuring out what the new mascot would be before deciding on the Kumimanu — an extinct genus of giant penguin which lived around 60 to 56 million years ago in present-day New Zealand.
“We didn’t even know that prehistoric penguins were a thing until we did some research, and then the a-ha moment came with the Kumimanu. We knew we had found our new mascot, and it was a perfect fit for the Oval,” says Ari Messer, guest relations wpecialist at the Olympic Oval.
The Oval chose Kumi – an abbreviation of Kumimanu and a traditional, non gender-specific Japanese name that means “long period of time” — a decidedly apropos name for a prehistoric penguin.
But what about Ollie?
The Olympic Oval introduced Oil Can Ollie in 1989 as the building’s official mascot alongside UCalgary’s Dexter the Dinosaur. Oil Can Ollie was shortened to Ollie as his official name (Dexter evolved to Rex). He came to Calgary after hearing about the 1988 Calgary Olympic Winter Games, and once he arrived, like so many others, Ollie knew he was home.
Over the years, Ollie underwent several makeovers while sharing his love of speedskating and public skating. However, Ollie wanted to retire and decided it was time to pass the torch to a new penguin and share their love for the Olympic Oval.
“Ollie was a staple of the Calgary mascot community — he joined the ranks of Harvey the Hound, Hidy and Howdy, and Ralph the Dog. As for Kumi, we can’t wait to introduce him to Calgary — he’s pretty flippin’ cool,” says Mark Messer, interim director, Olympic Oval.
What does Kumi represent for the Oval?
As a high-performance and health-conscious mascot, Kumi will bring a brrr-illiant breath of fresh air to the Olympic Oval. Kumi knows skating is fun and great for your health — an activity for all ages and abilities.
Kumi will also make appearances at campus events, Dinos games, recreational public skating times, speedskating competitions and World Cups, and community events.
We want everyone to join us in welcoming Kumi to the Oval and the UCalgary community.
Riley Brandt, University of Calgary