Rio merchandise sales aim to reach $400 million

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) The head of licensing for the 2016 Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro says merchandise sales could reach 1 billion reals ($400 million).

Merchandise sales makes up a large chunk of the income for Rio's $3 billion operating budget, which is the budget for running the games themselves.

The $400 million was an ''achievable goal'' through the marketing of thousands of games-related products, Sylmara Mutini said on Thursday at Rio's international airport. She acknowledged that reaching the goal will be a challenge.

''We are going to close 70 licensing deals and we will have 150 stores,'' Mutini told The Associated Press.

Other major income sources for the operating budget are local sponsorships, ticket sales, and a large contribution from the International Olympic Committee. Local sponsorships are expected to produce half the income for the operating budget.

Mutini was at the airport for a ceremony geared toward the unveiling on Monday of the mascot for the Rio Games.

To mark the occasion, mascot dolls from four previous Olympics were on display. They represented the three most recent Summer Olympics in London, Beijing, and Athens, and the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.

''Our expectation is that (merchandising) the mascots will represent 25 percent of our business,'' Mutini said.

''We are all very, very excited about the mascots, and we truly believe that's an achievable goal. And we might even surpass it.''

The mascot for this year's World Cup - an armadillo named Fuleco - generated little interest. Some blamed this on pre-World Cup protests, and repeated delays and distractions in preparing venues.

In addition to the operating budget, Rio is spending about $20 billion in a mix of public and private money to build sporting venues and urban infrastructure to prepare the city for South America's first Olympics.

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Filipe de Almeida of SNTV contributed to this report.

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Stephen Wade on Twitter: http://twitter.com/StephenWadeAP

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