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The first-arriving member of the Canadian delegation was the moose – the team’s photogenic fibreglass mascot who measures about two metres in length and weighs some 225 kilograms.Canadian Olympic Committee

The first member of Team Canada to arrive at the Beijing Olympics left Tokyo last fall in a crate – and travelled by sea.

When he docked at the Chinese port city of Tianjin, he waited for months for his Canadian teammates to give him a lift to Beijing. Now, as the Winter Olympics are set to begin, Canada’s big-antlered lucky charm is standing right where he belongs: outside Team Canada’s accommodations in the athletes village, ready to pose for his usual flurry of photos with Olympians from around the world.

The team’s photogenic fibreglass mascot measures about two metres in length and weighs some 225 kilograms. The Canadians have had a moose statue along on Olympic trips since the 2000 Games in Sydney, Australia.

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He’s a star attraction. Athletes snap selfies with him – and sometimes involve him in Olympic shenanigans, too.

Canadian athletes sometimes move him to alternate locations in the village so they can click some different pictures. Often, he gets moose-napped by a pack of fun-seeking athletes from friendly rivals under the cover of night (looking at you, Australia!) and relocated elsewhere in the village – something that happened frequently during last summer’s Tokyo Games.

“I can’t tell you the number of calls I had in Tokyo that the moose was on the loose again,” said Shane Fombuena, Games project manager for the Canadian Olympic Committee. “There’s always a few countries that try to steal him. We know who the usual suspects are, we know what countries we have to go and poke and prod and ask for our moose back.”

On one such occasion in Tokyo, Canadian weightlifter Boady Santavy and several members of the Canadian women’s water-polo team retrieved the moose after he went missing, moving the heavy guy back to his spot. Mr. Santavy tweeted a video of their rescue mission with the caption, “The people who stole our moose will stay anonymoose.”

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A life-size moose stands in front of the Canadian residence in the athletes village at the 2012 London Olympics on July 26, 2012.Jason Ransom/The Canadian Press

For the moose, every Olympics is a different adventure. He typically gets a new paint job for each Games, and appears in hundreds of photos splashed across social media. The moose has withstood weather of all kinds, including storm winds in Tokyo strong enough to blow him right over – causing some minor cracking to his back and antlers.

In Beijing, the moose statue stands close to an outdoor courtyard space that the COC has set up for its athletes so they can have a bit of physically distanced fun at an otherwise heavily restricted Olympics inside a closed loop. They can’t leave the loop to visit other parts of Beijing, or enjoy as much of the usual socializing at the heart of most Games. But the Canadian courtyard in the village has backyard games such as Spikeball and Cornhole where they can safely unwind.

The moose is one of Mr. Fombuena’s many responsibilities at each Olympics – everything from recovering him after a night of high jinks to arranging his travel.

“He has a custom crate made for him to protect him from damage in transport,” Mr. Fombuena said. “So it all depends on the Games and how our freight moves – on rails, or on an ocean liner, on a plane. So we built this giant wooden crate to protect him. It’s his little shelter; it’s his home.”

Already in Asia for the Summer Olympics last year in Tokyo, the moose travelled directly from there to Tianjin and then Beijing in the COC shipping container, along with a variety of other items needed at both Games, from technology equipment to weight machines.

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Komak the moose is greeted by students at St. Lawrence Catholic Elementary School in Hamilton on Dec. 6, 2013. Komak was unveiled as the Canadian Olympic team's official mascot for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi.Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press

Because the moose didn’t get home to Canada this time, he still has some of those Tokyo cracks, and the same red and black paint job he had for the Summer Games.

“Everything has been very uncertain with ocean freight in terms of timelines during the pandemic,” Mr. Fombuena said. “So we were sure to be very quick about turning our things around and having them leave Tokyo as soon as possible to come to Beijing.”

As per tradition, the Canadian athletes will vote on a name for the moose at these Olympics. Some of the past candidate names have included Mountie and Madamooselle at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for example.

After the Beijing Games are over, the moose will start his voyage home to Canada – travelling by sea once again. While his teammates will be back home later this month, the moose’s journey is a little more unpredictable, Mr. Fombuena said. “We’re expecting him to be home in May or June of this year.”

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