The Rio Olympics 2016 have come and gone, but are certainly not forgotten. Reflecting on the two animal avatars created for the event, many of us probably mistook them as Pokémon Go characters let loose in Rio de Janeiro [even despite a Brazilian ban to thwart game playing.] However upon closer examination, they appeared to have been closer in nature to what the Greek use to refer to as ’chimera,’ or an imaginary composite of a number of animals and plants meshed together to form menacing monsters. Except in the case of Vinicius and Tom, these two imagined creatures are surprisingly cute and the furthest thing from anything one might consider threatening.
Rio2016’s website gives you a glimpse into each character’s backstory, where Vinicius is the Olympic Games mascot and Tom represents the Paralympic Games.
“I am the Olympic Games mascot, a mixture of all the Brazilian animals,” says Vinicius. “I was born out of the explosion of joy that happened when they announced that Rio would host the Olympic Games.”
“I am the Paralympic Games mascot, a magical creature,a fusion of all the plants in the Brazilian forests. I was born out of the explosion of happiness when we found out that the Paralympic Games were coming to Rio," notes Tom.
Symbolism both light and dark . . .
What tourists, visitors and spectators soon learned, the import behind their creation had dual purpose. Brazil is home to a biologically diverse number of species. The Amazon, which includes one of the largest intact rainforests in the world, features a tenth of all known species on the planet. Amongst its vibrant jungles, wetlands, savannahs, mountains and deserts, the country is arguably an ecological melting pot.
However, the symbolism that went into the creation of Vinicius and Tom also reflected a stark reminder of some of the missteps the Brazilian government. It’s been widely reported over the years, Brazilians have bulldozed nature preserves, pursued hydroelectric dam building and even slaughtered a beloved jaguar, causing protests with animal advocacy and rights groups.
But, even with the negative press, in 2014 nearly 325,000 Brazilian citizens turned out for a public vote, and the overwhelming results ended up favorable to not only use the characters, but to also honor Brazilian Nova singers Vinicius de Moraes and Tom Jobim who were inspiration for the naming of the two mascots.
"The choice of the names Vinicius and Tom adds even more "Brazilianness" to our mascots, which are ambassadors of the Games. Their role is to share the messages of the event and the values of the Olympic and Paralympic movements to various audiences, especially children and youth," said Beth Lula, Brand Director of Rio 2016.
Pokémon Go, no go?
While the Brazilian government banned the mega-popular game Pokémon Go in Brazil before the Olympics, as of this writing there is still speculation that some Pokémon monsters did pop up throughout the Olympic Village and the city of Rio — perhaps attempting to hookup with Vinicius and Tom at some clandestine rendezvous. In fact, some reports even indicated that the Christ the Redeemer statue could have well been a Pokéstop? Heck, not out of the question — since it wouldn’t be the first time Pokémon Go players showed up in inappropriate destinations.