The bear's full name is Mikhail Potapych Toptygin.
The bear is a familiar animal in Russia, appearing in many popular stories, songs and poems. Misha wears a striped belt around his waist made up of five bands in the colours of the Olympic rings. The belt consists of the five rings in a single colour.
A survey was conducted among the viewers of a TV programme about animals and the readers of a sports newspaper to choose a bear for the mascot. Some 45,000 letters were received from all over the USSR. A group of artists then produced 60 graphic versions of the mascot. It was finally the version by Victor Chizhikov, a well-known children’s book illustrator, that was chosen.
On 15 June 1978, Misha took off on a “Soyuz” rocket to spend some time on the “Salyut 6” space station.
In an emotional moment, an enormous Misha bade farewell to the 100,000 spectators at the Great Arena at the end of the Closing Ceremony of the Games before being lifted off by balloons and disappearing into the sky.
Although much less well-known than Misha, a seal named Vigri symbolised the sailing competitions at the 1980 Games, which were held in Tallinn.