The Beijing Olympics were held from August 8, 2008 to August 24, 2008. Preparing for the big event, the official Olympic Mascots for the 2008 Summer Olympics were created.
The Chinese came up with a very clever, cute set of five mascots, which are symbolic both individually and as a group. The mascots are collectively referred to as the Fuwa (福娃), and each has its own name and meaning.
Beibei (贝贝, pronounced Bèibèi) resembles a fish. In traditional Chinese thinking fish (鱼) is symbolic of prosperity because the two words share the same pronunciation (yu). Fish is eaten on New Year's for the same reason, the hope of encouraging prosperity in the coming year.
Jinging (晶晶, pronounced Jīngjīng) resembles a panda. The panda (大熊猫, pronounced dàxióngmāo) is of course a cultural treasure in China, and shows up in a wide variety of things Chinese.
Huanhuan (欢欢, pronounced Huānhuān) resembles a Tibetan antelope, and is supposed to inspire the athleticism and performance of the participants in the Olympics.
Yingying (迎迎, pronounced Yíngyíng) looks like a swallow, which in traditional Chinese thinking is associated with good fortune.
Nini (妮妮, pronounced Nīnī) looks like the Olympic flame.
The names of these five mascots come together in a particular way. All five names are reduplicated, a common means of expression in Chinese. If you take the first syllable of each two-syllable name, you get bei jing huan ying ni, which can also be written:
This means "Beijing welcomes you", which is really quite ingenious.
Much more information about the mascots can be had at the Official Mascots page of the Beijing 2008 site.