Official website of 16th FINA World Championships 2015 in Kazan
16th FINA World Championships

July 24 - August 9, 2015

LIfe-size Kazan 2015 mascots Itil and Alsu entertain visitors at competition venues

05.08.2015, 11:00 Culture
Snow leopards Itil and Alsu are the mascots of the 16th FINA World Championships. One can have their picture taken with them at all the competition venues of the sporting event. Few people know that volunteers had to undergo a serious recruitment process to play roles of the Championships mascots. We talked to these volunteers to learn all the ups and downs of their mission.

The mascots have common Tatar names. The male name, Itil, is the medieval name of the Volga River, and it is still used in the Kazakh, Chuvash, Tatar, Bashkir, Kalmyk and Mongolian languages. Volunteer Damir Rakhmatullin has been playing Itil since the very opening of the FINA Water World Park: “The recruitment was more challenging than for the Universiade where 20,000 volunteers were needed, whereas 2,500 volunteers were selected for the World Championships. There were 11 candidates per position. The main requirement was English. Motivation, communication, stress resistance and teamwork were also among the requirements. We get photographed over 100 times a shift. Our main goal is to bring joy to the crowds.”

As the volunteers say, it takes some effort to wear these costumes, that’s why the shifts last no more than 6 hours.

Itil’s friend, snow leopard Alsu, is also very popular, her name means ‘pink-coloured water’ in Tatar language. 

Angelina Khakimullina is the volunteer who works together with Itil. If she is asked who is more popular, Itil or Alsu, she always answers decisively: “They are one strong unit. If people first take a photo with Alsu, afterwards there certainly will be a photo with Itil. I am so happy working at the Championships, the atmosphere is incredible here! It is awesome meeting new people; I feel like I’m in-demand because sometimes there is a line of those who want to have their picture taken with Alsu!”

Snow leopard is generally considered to be one of the symbols of the Republic of Tatarstan. Various design ideas were submitted for the nationwide contest where these two mascots symbolising strength, swiftness and skills were chosen via online voting at the official Kazan 2015 website.

As a matter of fact, plush toys Itil and Alsu are the most sought-after merchandise at the current Championships. 

Press Office of Organising Committee for 16th FINA World Championships