Rio 2016 mascots inspired by animals and plants of Brazil

RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - Bright yellow and cat-like, with a green leaf-haired brother, the mascots for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro were launched by organizers late on Sunday. The mascots, who are said to represent the animals and plants of Brazil, 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. Organizers hope to raise 1 billion reais ($398 million) in retail sales from Rio 2016 branded merchandise. The fictional backstory of the characters states they were born out of the joy of the Brazilian people at having been awarded the games. 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. Organizers are hoping the mascots 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. "We are close to signing a partnership to produce a TV show," Sylmara Multini, head of licensing for Rio 2016, told Reuters, adding they would also be developing apps and games with the mascots. "The crucial thing is to turn the mascots into characters." (Reporting by Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)