Olympics: Rio 2016 unveils its mascots, and social media responds in the best way it knows how

The mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is pictured during its presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is pictured during its presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are presented at the Ginasio Experimental Olimpico Juan Antonio Samaranch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are presented at the Ginasio Experimental Olimpico Juan Antonio Samaranch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The unnamed mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is pictured among children during its presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The unnamed mascot of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games is pictured among children during its presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
The president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and head of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Carlos Nuzman (left) and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes pose with the mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (yellow) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games,
The president of the Brazilian Olympic Committee and head of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games Carlos Nuzman (left) and the mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes pose with the mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (yellow) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, during their presentation at the Ginasio Experimental Olimpico Juan Antonio Samaranch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are presented at the Ginasio Experimental Olimpico Juan Antonio Samaranch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games are presented at the Ginasio Experimental Olimpico Juan Antonio Samaranch in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games during their presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
The new mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (left) and the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games during their presentation in Rio de Janeiro on Nov 24, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP

The mascots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were unveiled on Monday but social media remains confused as to what the two are supposed to be.

The official line from the Brazilian organisers of the Olympics is that the mascots represent the South American nation's rich fauna and flora, reported AFP. 

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The yellow feline animal symbolises 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. 

The mascots have yet to be named and the public can have a say in what they will be called. They can vote from three choices: 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.

But many on Twitter commented that it will be hard to name them when confusion reigned on just what they are. Some commented that the yellow mascot is suffering from the same identity crisis as Hello Kitty - it looks like a cat but yet is not a cat. While descriptions of the blue-green mascot range from it being called an "over-enthusiastic artichoke" to a "Lego Tina Turner". 

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. 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 Dec 14 after a public vote via the Games website and over social media. 

Organisers hope the mascots will spearhead multi-million dollar merchandising for the Games, whose overall operating budget is around US$3 billion (S$3.75 billion). Event-branded merchandise is forecast to top 1 billion reais (around S$500 million), with the mascots bringing in around one quarter of that.

In all, the Games, which come just after the 2014 Fifa World Cup and will cost Brazil an estimated US$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. 

While these are some serious goals, the feedback so far has been anything but.

More about the mascots here.