What Is The Rio Olympic Mascot? The Games Have A Creature That Represents Brazil's Colorful Culture

Home to the 2016 Olympics, Rio de Janeiro is known for its lively people and colorful celebrations. In fact, the entire country of Brazil is known for its rich natural environment and diversity. It makes sense then that Rio's Olympic mascot reflects Brazil's colorful culture.

This year's Olympic mascot is named Vinicius, and it's a creature designed to represent all of Brazil's native animals. Its multi-colored arms and legs seem reminiscent of the country's tropical birds, while its cat-like facial features are more representative of the Amazon rainforest's big felines. A lizard-like tail completes the design. According to the Olympic organizing committee's website, Vinicius was "born out of the explosion of joy that happened when they announced that Rio would host the Olympic Games."

The name Vinicius evokes another important part of Brazilian culture. This year's Olympic mascot is named after Vinicius de Moraes, a Brazilian poet and lyricist who wrote lyrics for many a bossa nova song. Bossa nova remains one of the best-known genres of Brazilian music worldwide. Through name and design, Vinicius reflects the mark that the Brazilian culture and environment have left on the world — an important reminder ahead of the long-awaited Rio Olympics.

Each Olympics has an equally symbolic mascot, usually represented throughout the Olympic facilities and ceremonies. In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, a trio of mascots — the hare, the polar bear, and the leopard — represented the three places on the Olympic podium. Four years ago, the London Olympics featured a one-eyed mascot named Wenlock, designed to honor a British town that helped to inspire the modern Olympic Games.

This year, Vinicius is complemented by Tom, the official mascot for the Rio Paralympic Games. Whereas Vinicius represents all Brazilian animals, Tom represents all Brazilian plants. He's equally colorful and festive as his wildlife counterpart.

Vinicius and Tom have already started making appearances around Rio. Vinicius will likely play a role in the Opening Ceremony, scheduled to air on NBC on Friday night. His design fits in well with the rest of the Olympic paraphernalia we've seen so far, including volunteer uniforms and logos.

Vinicius' Olympic bio says that he likes to meet people from around the world. He's probably already started getting that opportunity, as athletes and teams from various countries have begun arriving in Rio to prepare for the Games. If the mascot is any indication, this year's Games should be as lively and celebratory as Brazil's culture.