Organizers of the Tokyo Games formally introduced their doe-eyed mascots to the world on Sunday, christening them with superhero names that could provide a tongue-twisting challenge to some.
The blue-checked Olympic mascot was named Miraitowa — combining the Japanese words for future and eternity — organizers said at an event in Tokyo.
It expresses hope for an eternally bright future, officials said.
Its pink-checked Paralympic partner is called Someity — borrowing from the word for a popular variety of Japan’s iconic cherry trees and playing on the phrase “so mighty.”
The characters are said to combine tradition and innovation, organizers said.
Pictures of the pointy-eared mascots bestowed with “special powers” were unveiled in February this year after being chosen by schoolchildren from a shortlist of three across mascot-mad Japan.
Miraitowa has a “strong sense of justice and is very athletic,” according to Olympic officials, adding that it also possesses magical powers that enable it “to move anywhere instantaneously.”
Someity is said to be “usually calm” but “gets very powerful when needed,” organizers noted cryptically.’
Daiya Seto, who took bronze in the 400-meter individual medley at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, and Monika Seryu, who represented Japan in female paracanoe in Rio, took the stage with six students from a Tokyo elementary school.
“Even though I won a bronze medal in Rio, somehow I did not get a stuffed mascot doll,” Seto said. “I want to win a gold medal so I can get a Miraitowa doll.”
Although Seto said the mascot’s unveiling made him feel the Tokyo Olympics were around the corner, he will not have to wait until 2020 to receive one. He, Seryu and two children who subsequently attended the opening of Mascot House each received one.
“I was lucky. In the athletes village dining hall in Rio, Tom the mascot visited, and I took a selfie with him,” Seryu said. “It turned out that was quite rare, and something I’ll never forget.
“Because these mascots were chosen by 6.5 million children all over Japan, I feel they are giving us a boost and it only makes me want to train harder.”
Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee President Yoshiro Mori reminded the crowd that the Olympics are not only about individuals and that their success requires a group effort.
“The Olympics are not only for athletes like Seto,” Mori said. “These mascots were selected by everyone. The Olympics are now just two years away and we’re going to need everyone’s effort. So I am asking for your help.”
After the debut ceremony, the mascots’ designer, Ryo Taniguchi said, “I had an image of something like this event, but because of the searing heat today, I was afraid no one would show up. Still, when I see this crowd and the response they are getting, I am slightly overwhelmed.”
Given Japan’s heat wave, thoughts have turned recently to the effect the weather will have on fans and competitors in 2020. Seryu found a way to manage the spirit of the moment with the temperatures.
“The introduction of the mascots two years ahead of the games, even in this kind of heat, generates momentum and makes me think we can overcome anything,” she said.
Seto admitted that he needs that sense of momentum to push himself.
“It’s two years to go to Tokyo 2020 and now it’s already been two years since Rio,” he said. “It seems like no time at all and now Tokyo is on us.”
“Feeling this spirit I want to push myself, especially to do those things I would shy away from. By that I mean training. I am not a very stoic individual, and I want to be more proactive in that area.”
The Mascot House installed in the first-floor atrium of Tokyo Midtown Hibiya has a supply of mascot goods for sale and will offer people opportunities to have their pictures taken with Miraitowa and Someity.
Known as yuru-kyara (laid-back characters), mascots can also be major money-spinners. Tokyo organizers will hope their mascots can replicate the success of Soohorang, the Pyeongchang Olympics’ cuddly stuffed tiger.