RIO DE JANEIRO: The Rio Olympic Games have their mascot, a yellow feline animal representing Brazil’s rich fauna and wildlife.
The animal is a mixture of Brazilian creatures — part cat but able to spring about like a monkey — with a dash of blue and green added to the predominant yellow in a nod to Brazil’s national colours.
The Paralympic Games mascot is a predominantly blue and green figure whose head is covered with leaves — depicting the host country’s rich vegetation as Brazil prepares to welcome the Olympics to South America for the first time.
It remains only for the public to decide on a name, choosing from a range of options after the mascots were officially unveiled on Monday following a Sunday night TV television debut.
Games marketing director Beth Lula said the characters had been chosen after a nine-month boiling down of proposals originally submitted by 24 firms before awarding the commission to Sao Paulo-based animation company Birdo Producoes — and after a focus group of six-to-12 year-olds had rejected a first proposal.
“They know better what is good or not,” joked Lula after the choice of mascots which “show the energy of the Brazilian people and the diversity of Brazil.
“They create an emotional link with people. They are very important to engage with the public, especially kids,” Lula said after Rio mayor Eduardo Paes symbolically handed the mascots the keys to the city.
“Mascots must represent their own culture and be meaningful locally — but globally understood. I think we tried to do something very Brazilian.”
Notwithstanding the national flavour, she admitted the mascots themselves will be made in China. China’s Honav has the licence, maintaining a relationship with the Games going back to Beijing 2008 and London 2012.
The winning names will be selected on December 14 after a public vote via the Games website and over social media.
There are three pairs of options respectively for the Olympic and Paralympic figures: Oba and Eba — joyful expressions in Brazil — Tiba Tuque and Esquindim, native words, and Vinicius and Tom, after famous Brazilian musicians Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim.
Organisers hope the mascots, ‘born’ from the joy of the Brazilian people in landing the Games in 2009, will spearhead multi-million dollar merchandising for the Games, whose overall operating budget is around $3 billion (2.4 billion euros).
Event-branded merchandise is forecast to top one billion reais (around $400 million), with the mascots bringing in around one quarter of that.
In all, the Games, which will cost Brazil an estimated $20 billion in public and private investment as Rio receives a massive upgrade in infrastructure as well as the Games sports venues, will see a range of some 12,000 products marketed.