By Duncan Mackay

The mascots for Rio 2016 have been inspired by the animals and plants of Brazil ©Rio 2016A bright yellow and cat-like, with a green leaf-haired brother, the mascots for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics have been launched in Rio de Janeiro today. 

The mascots, who are said to represent the animals and plants of Brazil, feature various influences from pop culture, along with elements of animation and computer game characters, it is claimed by officials.

They are a key part of the Olympics merchandising campaign which is set to feature 12,000 products and is an important revenue source and a vital way of engaging the public.

Organisers hope to raise 1 billion reais (£254 million/$398 million/€321 million) in retail sales from Rio 2016 branded merchandise.

According to the fictional backstory, the mascots were born on October 2, 2009, the day Rio de Janeiro was awarded the Games, out of the nature generated by people's great joy.

The Olympic mascot represents all of the different animals in Brazil.

The Paralympic mascot, in turn, is a unique mixture of the Brazilian flora.

To sign off and ensure the authenticity of the mascot selection process, Rio 2016 invited Anima Mundi Festival directors to be consultants. Birdo Produções, from São Paulo, won the bidding process and created the project.

The public are to be given the chance to vote on the names for the Rio 2016 mascots ©Rio 2016The public are to be given the chance to vote on the names for the Rio 2016 mascots
©Rio 2016

A public poll will be held to decide their names from a shortlist of Oba and Eba; Tiba Tuque and Esquindim; and Vinicius and Tom.

People can vote at as well as on the Rio 2016 Twitter feed (@Rio2016).

Organisers are hoping the mascots will help engage younger audiences in the Olympics, with a television series starring the mascots planned to run on Brazilian television one year before the Games.

"The mascots are one of the most representative symbols of the Games," said Carlos Nuzman, President of Rio 2016.

"Their purpose is to delight and engage the audience, particularly the children."

More details about the mascots, who will also have their own website and social media accounts, is due to be released later today.

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