The Story in Three Acts: Meet Hrki, The Most Popular Hamster in Croatia!

A few months ago we started talking about the European University Games which will be held in Zagreb and Rijeka, starting from July this year. We have also introduced a volunteer from Hungary, our beloved blogger Reka Ulbert, who is writing amazing posts about Zagreb for you. But we haven’t presented the most famous ‘person’ (in fact an animal) which you will able to see all over the country before the games, during the games and probably in the next years after the games finish. His name is Hrki and he is a (giant!) hamster. He is a mascot of this year’s games, and here is a short story about his life.

Part one – Choosing the mascot!
The selection of the mascot is the result of the process that began in September 2014. A different ‘face’ from a total of 64 applications (and pictures) that arrived was selected. Animals, action figures, people, geometric characters with a smile came to the EUG office claiming that they are the one to be the chosen to present the Croatian Games to the world. And they were all beautiful, yes they were. But like with everything in life, the EUG needed one mascot, not 64, so the nine-member jury had a very hard task – to select three finalists that will be presented to the public. And they did it! They picked three best candidates and invited several citizens to make a final decision of the EUG 2016 mascot. And Hrki got most votes which was quite confusing for the people of Croatia. Why? Because Croatia is a country known for some rare animal species such as a weasel (the Croatian money currency is kuna which means a weasel); many birds, bears and, of course, the famous Mediterranean monk seal who lives only in the Istrian part of the Adriatic sea… not the hamster. So we asked for some answers from his creators, young authors Vedran Rede and Matija Tomsic.

‘The concept of our mascot is based on the idea: ’It is important to participate’ and a cute and small hamster is the perfect embodiment of this idea. This animal is known for its specific way of having fun – running. Our hamster is not so muscular, but it does not stop him to do sports. The most important thing for him is to socialize, have fun and participate. That makes him a winner regardless of the outcome, and that is the motto of the Games. We are proud and happy that our bid got most votes from citizens and that our hamster became the official mascot of this great event.’ said the creators of the mascot. The explanation sounded logical, and everyone accepted it, so the authors started looking for a name for the hamster that will soon conquer Europe.

Part two – Choosing the name
Hrki immediately received 200 suggestions by Croatian citizens (don’t ask us to write all the 200 names because we will… if you ask ;) ). Only 11 names, nicknames, and surnames (Crocko, Hrco, Starky and others) made the shortlist which was sent to the addresses of more than 30 famous Croatian athletes who got the assignment to vote for their favorites. Hrki got most votes, maybe because it reminds us of both – a Croatian word for a hamster which is ‘hrčak’, and a Croatian name for Croatia which is ‘Hrvatska’.  So the Minister of Science, Education and Sports, Vedran Mornar announced that the name of our hamster mascot will be Hrki. So, the favorite Croatian rodent was finally born!

Part 3 – Hrki all around!
After completing step 1 and 2 – choosing the looks and the name – our Hrki finally went on a tour across Croatia following all EUG2016 events and bringing nice mood and happiness all around! He went to the Advent in Zagreb, Carnival in Rijeka, he opened and closed many events, played with kids, exercised with athletes and soon, very soon he will be your favorite tourist guide. But soon, very soon you will hear more about it. Stay tuned here on JustZagreb, and you will get all the information you need. :)

Until then, here is the gallery of all ‘mascot candidates’ who competed with Hrki for the ‘big title’.