Schoolchildren to vote on official mascots for Japan 2020 Olympics

Schoolchildren to vote on official mascots for Japan 2020 Olympics

Japanese schoolchildren will vote to choose the official mascots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, with the winner announced next year.

A shortlist of three pairs of mascots was unveiled today at a primary school in Tokyo.

This is a big deal in Japan where mascots are a part of the national culture. Schools, department stores, train lines, sporting teams and local councils all have mascots to represent them.

There is not a festival or an official event which does not feature a person dressed up in a mascot suit.

Members of the public submitted their designs as part of a nationwide competition to design the Olympic mascot. Professional graphic designers were also eligible to enter.

The chosen three were whittled down from more than 2,000 entries.

The first mascots in the shortlist, the blue and pink characters (A), are characters based on the official Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic logos.

The description of the Olympic mascot's character says it has, "a strong sense of justice and is very athletic".

The pink character features cherry blossom ears and, "is usually calm, however, it gets very powerful when needed".

The second entry features a "lucky cat" and a fox (B), which are figures usually seen at Shinto shrines in Japan.

"The mascot loves to run around very fast, however it also loves to take naps underneath the sunlight," the Tokyo Olympic Organising Committee said.

The blue Paralympic mascot is based on the guardian dog, which are often called "lion dogs" and are statues guarding the entrance at many shrines. They are thought to ward off evil spirits.

The third entry, the crazy fox and the raccoon (C), features Japan's red and white colours and are based on traditional Japanese characters.

The Olympic Mascot is a fox and the Paralympic mascot is a raccoon.

Twitter users have mounted an early campaign in support of the third entry — one user labelled the Olympic Mascot as the "stoned fox".

Another commented: "That fox has SEEN things, man."

Japanese Twitter users have commented that the figures look like characters from the popular Pokemon smartphone app.

Schoolchildren will have until February next year to cast their ballots.

Similarities with existing characters pointed out

The choice of the mascots has been a painstaking process so far, with a panel of experts checking each entry is an original design.

The Tokyo 2020 organising committee wants to put an embarrassing controversy surrounding its original logo behind it. They scrapped the first logo back in 2015 because it was copied from the logo of a Belgian theatre company.

But Japanese Twitter users are already pointing out similarities between the finalists and other animated characters.