Khoi granted an interview to Thoi Nay (Present Times) Publication of Nhan Dan (People) Newspaper to share readers about his choice of the saola for his design as well as his feelings after winning the contest.

Question: You are popular names among illustrators for books and magazine. What brought you to the design contest of logo and mascot for the 31st SEA Games and the 11th ASEAN Para Games?

Painter Ngo Xuan Khoi: I think that every painter feels proud and happy to design logos and mascots for major sporting events in the region such as the 31st SEA Games and the 11th ASEAN Para Games.

My job as an illustrator for books and magazines is also related to graphic design. However, I find it more difficult to work with logos and designs as it requires a more compact language of the art. It is even more challenging as it was a national contest which saw fierce competition among numerous entrants from across the country.

Although I have worked with logos and mascots before, this was my first time to join such a contest for sporting events.

Why did you choose the saola for your design? How long did it take to finish your design?

I came up with an idea of featuring a distinct animal of Vietnam, and then I remembered the saola, a rare animal first found in Vietnam nearly 30 years ago. I still remember that when the information about the saola was first released, it created shock among the biologist community.

I became more interested in the animal when I searched for more information in the internet.

As the panda was chosen as mascot for the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing, China, I thought that I should give the saola a try.

It took me two weeks to make sketch and finish my saola design.

Did it come as a surprise to you to be announced as winner of the contest?

Yes, it did. I feel very proud and touched to have won the contest. I am happy that the image of the rare, real and unique saola living in the majestic Truong Son mountain range has now been chosen to show the world the wealth and beauty of Vietnamese nature.

The Vietnam Sports Administration helped me contact with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), during which the WWF communication officers told me that they have launched many communication campaigns to raise public awareness on the conservation of saola for dozens of years, but such events haven’t gained as much success as the winning of my design.

I am happy that after my design was chosen as mascot for the two major sporting events, the saola is now becoming more popular among Vietnamese people, particularly young generation.

In 2021 when Vietnam hosts the 31st Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the 11th ASEAN Para Games, the image of saola will be surely promoted and popularised through media, souvenir products, posters, and T-shirts. Saola will then follow journalists and athletes at the events to promote Vietnam as a beautiful country with friendly people.

Thank you so much for your sharing!

“Saola”, a work by painter Ngo Xuan Khoi, becomes the official mascot of the 31st SEA Games and 11th ASEAN Para Games.