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  • Rio Olympic Souvenirs? -- OpEd


    While the world is watching Brazil cope with the Zika virus, political turmoil at the highest levels of government and a huge unemployment rate, all I can think about are the souvenirs that will come out of the first ever Olympics in South America.
    Everen T Brown (Everen T Brown)
    Rio will be my 14th Olympiad and some years ago I shared my top 11 craziest Olympic souvenirs with Around the Rings readers. I return to these pages once again to ponder what dazzling souvenirs (official and unofficial) this 31st Olympiad will give us…

    Despite the seriousness of the Zika virus, will some entrepreneurs make up pins featuring mosquitos in various sporting poses? In Beijing 2008, the clay warriors of Xian were turned into modern day Olympians. Comical poses by otherwise fierce Chinese warriors were sold in sets of 12. So bad they were good, I bought set for my collection of unusual Olympic souvenirs that probably should not have been. Will Rio take the bar up another notch or play it conservatively?

    The folks at Around the Rings stole the show in 2014 with their Sochi lapel pins featuring none other than Vladmir Putin in the most mischievous of poses. They were so popular, even I was not quick or lucky enough to get a set! I can only do a google search to bring up these precious pins – gracing someone else’s collection. I will not be surprised about what they might offer in Rio, I’ll just be first in line. Hopefully this year they won’t feature Dilma Rousseff, she has enough problems already!

    Putin hockey pin from Sochi 2014 (ATR)
    I am sure we will see many items with Copacabana’s famous “wavy” sidewalk design meant to represent ocean waves and mountains, among other interpretations. They are the brainchild of the late, great Brazilian landscape designer Roberto Burl Marx. This giant undulating mosaic appeared in the 1970’s and has become the unofficial trademark of Copacabana. It now appears throughout the city and has been imprinted onto dish towels and wrapping paper, Christmas ornaments and swimsuits, and much, much more. Certainly many games time souvenir makers will incorporate it into their products.

    Floating high above this city is the statue of Christ the Redeemer, another Rio icon. What will be his Olympic twist? Currently he has been a most popular souvenir, in a clear plastic molded form with small LED lights in the base projecting upwards to light up these flashing replica statues. They are sold best at nighttime on Copacabana’s wavy sidewalks, with multi-colored LED’s flashing their way into tourists’ hearts and wallets. During the games I expect to see him juggling the Olympic rings on his outstretched arms, welcoming those souvenir hungry fans looking for the ultimate in kitsch. No visit to Rio is complete without making the pilgrimage to the base of this giant statue or taking a representation of him home!

    Carnival will be another prominent theme, as Rio enjoys an excuse to party – be it world famous Carnival or the Olympic Summer Games. These designs play off that sexy carnival image, teasing us into thinking the party never stops. Scantily clad women in giant feather costumes are the dress of the day here, and it will remind fans of the other event this city is so famous for. Parties will break out in the streets and costumes are welcomed. Expect to see this popular theme carried over in many souvenir products.

    Rio mascots Tom (left) and Vinicius (ATR)
    How much will we see of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic mascots? Do you even know their names? Or what kind of animals they are? Will they play a supporting role or just become Olympic orphans? These hybrid custom designed creatures give Cobi, (Barcelona 1992) a run for the money in their unexplainable design. For you game show fans, in case anyone asks, their names are: Vinicius (Olympic) and Tom (Paralympic). At least it is a single mascot for each set of games. That will save Olympic memorabilia collectors some serious cash, not being duty-bound to buy a set of three or five mascots as seen in recent Olympiads!

    Finally, the colors of Brazil – green and yellow - will be the main color palette of the games. You most likely won’t see so much of these colors until your return visit. This is one proud nation and they like to show their colors on just about everything, from lapel pins to wearables, however it won’t stop there. The city will be awash in these home country colors, especially at venues when Brazil is competing, with nothing more powerful than a colorful home court advantage.

    I am looking forward to coming south for the games and when it is all over, be sure to save a giant logo from the fence wrap for me and my collection!

    Written by Everen T. Brown

    Everen T. Brown is a connoisseur and collector of all things Olympic.