The Tokyo 2020 Olympics Organizing Committee will launch a public design contest for the official Games mascot on Aug. 1 and offer cash prizes as high as ¥1 million, officials said Monday.

The winner will receive ¥1 million and the finalists ¥100,000. The winner will be announced next March.

The organizers said the competition is open to both foreign and Japanese residents of Japan and that the mascot should reflect Japan’s cultural heritage.

Applicants are required to submit a set of designs for both the Olympic and Paralympic mascots, along with text profiles explaining the characters, through a website that will be set up for the contest. Submissions will be accepted from Aug. 1 to 14.

Applicants must be 18 or older as of April 1, 2017. Those who do not meet the age requirement can apply with a guarantor.

The mascot selection panel — which was set up last year and has since held eight meetings to hammer out the details of the process — will choose three or four finalists who will be announced in early December.

It will then have elementary schoolchildren from across the country vote for the winner, which will be a first in the history of the Olympic Games.

“Given the importance of mascots in modern Japanese culture, we always knew there would be huge public interest in the selection of the Tokyo 2020 mascot,” said fashion journalist Yoshiko Ikoma, the vice chairwoman.

The committee will accept votes from each participating school class on a voluntary basis from mid-December through January.

“The Olympic mascot, which welcomes athletes and visitors from around the world, has a symbolic role,” said Olympic minister Tamayo Marukawa.

“It is a great opportunity for all Japanese children to learn about cohesive society and the principles of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, which celebrate peace,” she said.

According to the officials, there are 20,000 schools with 270,000 classes nationwide. Once votes from the elementary schools are collected, the selection panel will conduct a final review and announce the winner.

The mascots’ names, however, will be decided based on feedback from creative professionals, the officials said, adding they will be disclosed to the public the following summer.

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