The five mascots, which represent four of China's most popular animals - a fish, a panda, a Tibetan antelope, and a swallow, along with the Olympic flame were originally called the 'Five Friendlies' in English when they were unveiled last year.

 

However the name was too hard to pronounce and too easy to misunderstand according to China's official media, who cited a Beijing newspaper report.

 

The five dolls would now be known in English as 'fuwa', a Chinese word that translates as blessed or happy children, Games organisers told AFP.

 

According to the 2008 Games committee, the mascots are intended to symbolize China's welcome to the children of the world to the Games.

 

Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Olympic organizing committee, confirmed the mascot name change to AFP but said it was designed to give more appeal to the mascots.

 

"Fuwa reads more smoothly," said Sun.

 

"I think the change of name will help popularise the mascots."

 

The 2008 Olympic Games will be held in Beijing from August 8 to 24.