TOKYO >> Tokyo 2020 organizers unveiled the official mascots for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, based on a futuristic vision of the world with the two characters decked out in traditional blue-checkered and a pink cherry-blossom-themed attire.
“(These designs) embody tradition, the future, cuteness and sophistication, and I believe that they represent today’s Japan perfectly,” said Yoshiko Ikoma, deputy head of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics mascot selection panel. “They are cute and at the same time they’re cool.”
The winning mascots for the games were selected by elementary school students nationwide and overseas who were given three proposals to choose from.
Ryohei Miyata, chairperson of the mascot selection panel, commented that the winning design best encapsulates and shows how innovation is born from the harmony between progressiveness and tradition.
The winning designs for the Olympics and the Paralympics were created by Ryo Taniguchi, a 43-year-old character designer and illustrator from Fukuoka Prefecture, whose works have been featured in English-language school textbooks.
“(When designing) these characters, I referred to the flag handover performance at the closing ceremony of the recently held summer Olympic Games in Rio,” Taniguchi said.
The ceremony was held Feb. 28 at Hoyonomori Gakuen, an elementary school in Shinagawa Ward, Tokyo, where 561 students participated in the voting process.
“I thought that something combining futuristic and traditional elements would perfectly fit the image of Japan and Tokyo,” he said.
The official Olympic mascot is said to have a strong sense of justice, is athletic and has the ability to go anywhere instantaneously. The Paralympic character has a kind heart, loves nature and can move objects by looking at them.
Other designs featured characters based on a traditional lucky cat, a lucky inari fox, a guardian dog often seen at Shinto shrines and a fairytale-inspired pair — a fox and tanuki (raccoon dog).
The candidates were chosen from 2,042 design submissions from the public. Elementary school students cast their votes between Dec. 11 and Feb. 22.
A total of 205,755 classes from 16,769 elementary schools, including international schools and Japanese schools overseas, participated in the selection process. Each class could cast a single vote.
Taniguchi’s design received 109,041 votes.
“I hope these mascots will give energy to the athletes participating in the games,” Yoshinari Jitsukawa, a sixth grader who goes to Hoyonomori Elementary school, said. He added that he was thinking about becoming an athlete and possibly trying to take part in the Olympics as a ping-pong player.
Taniguchi will be awarded 1 million yen (about $9,410) and a ticket to the opening ceremonies of both the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.