Organizers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on Thursday unveiled three final candidates for the games’ official mascot, passing the baton to the nation’s elementary school students — who will pick the winner in a vote starting Monday.
The final proposals have been short-listed from a total of 2,042 design submissions from the public, and were presented with help from 113 children during a ceremony at Kakezuka Elementary School in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward. Each proposal is a set of two characters — one for the Olympic games and the other for the Paralympics.
The first final candidate set has an Olympic character based on a futuristic vision of the world, and decorated with a traditional checkered pattern to embody Japan’s tradition and innovation. The Paralympic character is decorated with cherry blossom flowers and has superpowers.
The second set features an Olympic character based on Japan’s lucky cat and inari fox — which also symbolizes luck — and a Paralympic character resembling a guardian dog often seen at shinto shrines.
The third set of red and white characters with ribbons used as celebratory ornaments — a fox for the Olympics and a tanuki (raccoon dog) for the Paralympics — has been inspired by traditional fairy tales.
Cultural Affairs Commissioner Ryohei Miyata, who chairs the organizing committee’s mascot-screening panel, said he was hoping many schools would take the chance to shape the games and Japan’s future through their votes because children “represent the future.”
“All of these designs contain deep-rooted cultural and innovative motifs,” said Yoshiko Ikoma, deputy head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mascot selection panel. “Japan is also a mascot giant and the world’s leader in creative fields … and these designs showcase such mastery.”
“All (the suggestions) are very unique and I was really impressed,” said 10-year-old Riku Doi, who took part in Thursday’s ceremony and picked the third set as his favorite. “I’d like to choose mascots that will be cute, powerful and that will give vigor (to participants and spectators).”
Doi, who takes lessons at a swimming school and wants to become an athlete, added that he was looking forward to watching Olympic competitors — especially those representing his favorite sport — compete in his hometown. He said he felt responsible for choosing a winner that will become part of Japan’s legacy — as the mascots will be featured in various events and on licensed products related to the games.
TV personality Shoko Nakagawa, another member of the screening committee, called the student vote “historic” given that mascots were not used in 1964.
The mascots will be selected by school children for the first time in the games’ history.
One vote will be allocated to each elementary school class taking part in the poll from Monday through Feb. 22.
Schools must register to participate, and the organizers said that 4,150 schools were registered as of Thursday at noon. Students from Japanese schools outside Japan and from Japan’s international schools are also eligible to vote.
The selection panel will announce the winner on Feb. 28 after a final review.
The mascots’ names will be chosen based on feedback from creative professionals and will be announced next summer.