Voting for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots kicked off today, with 6.5 million children at elementary schools across Japan given the opportunity to choose their favourite from three shortlisted pairs – each containing one mascot for the Olympic Games and one for the Paralympic Games. Each class can cast a single vote for their chosen mascots at any time in the 10-week voting period.
Following a review of 2,042 entries submitted by the public, the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) shortlisted three pairs of designs and unveiled them to the public on Thursday, 7 December.
Through this mascot selection process, Tokyo 2020 aims to engage the youth of Japan. By encouraging discussion between classmates, Tokyo 2020 wants children to learn about the significant role mascots play in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the values of the Olympic and Paralympic Movements.
In Tokyo for a visit of the International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission for the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, Commission Chairman John Coates said, “This is an innovative way of engaging the public in the Olympic Movement, especially the young children. Interest in the Games will only increase from here, especially as kids from more than 20,000 schools all over Japan begin voting on their favourite mascot today.”
Andrew Parsons, International Paralympic Committee President, added: “The mascot for any Olympic and Paralympic Games is always idolized. I think this is a wonderful, innovative idea to allow the younger generation in Japan to choose the mascots for the Tokyo 2020 Games. Having 3D models of each mascot for visually impaired youngsters to touch and feel ensures the voting process is inclusive, and is a move that the Tokyo 2020 Organising Committee deserves great credit for. It will also help compliment the IPC's I'mPOSSIBLE education initiative that was launched in Japan earlier this year.”
Yoshiro Mori, Tokyo 2020 President, said, “I would like to ask schools to take this opportunity to engage students in discussions before voting. By doing so, children can become more interested in the Olympic and Paralympic Games, and remember for the rest of their lives that they played an important part in them. All elementary schools in Japan are eligible to vote. I want everyone to get involved.”
Classes from Tokyo Metropolitan Fuchu Keyakinomori Gakuen special needs school as well as Tobitakyu Elementary School and Yoshiida Elementary School of Fukushima City were among the first to take part in the voting on Monday. Pupils discussed the competing designs before casting their vote, one per class.
Tobitakyu Elementary School is located in Tokyo's Chofu city, home of Tokyo Stadium where football, rugby and modern pentathlon events will be held, and of the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza which will host badminton and modern pentathlon's fencing event for the Olympic Games and wheelchair basketball during the Paralympic Games.
Tokyo 2020 is encouraging all elementary schools to participate in preparations for the Games, and is making various educational materials publicly available in support of this initiative.
Tokyo 2020 launched in April 2017 a nationwide Education Programme, called “Yoi Don!" in Japanese, or “Get Set” in English. It is an initiative in which Tokyo 2020 accredits schools that agree to use for educational purposes materials produced or authorised by Games organisers. As a part of the programme and in conjunction with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, in the spring of 2017 Tokyo 2020 published elementary school, middle school and high school editions of textbooks covering the Olympic and Paralympic Games, all of which are available for download from Tokyo 2020's website.
In addition, the Japanese edition of the Olympic Values Education Programme (OVEP) – a series of free teaching and accessible resources created by the International Olympic Committee – is currently being prepared. It communicates the benefit of sport and physical activity through an understanding of Olympism and its impact on individual health, enjoyment and social interaction. The toolkit is currently available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish.
Tokyo 2020 has also published the Japanese version of the “I'mPOSSIBLE” educational toolkit, designed to engage young people in the Paralympic Movement. Focusing on raising awareness of Paralympic values and on the importance of inclusion, the programme aims to challenge and change perceptions of young people towards those with an impairment. I'mPOSSIBLE was launched this spring and the toolkit has been distributed to 20,000 elementary schools across Japan.
To facilitate and support the mascot selection process in classrooms, Tokyo 2020, in conjunction with the University of Tsukuba and the Japan Sports Agency, has prepared a “Proposed Lesson Plan for Teachers”, with an option of one, two or three 45-minute classes. These aim to help teachers communicate Olympic and Paralympic values and to explain the roles played by the Games mascots.
Elementary school classes have until 22 February to cast their vote. International schools in Japan and Japanese schools overseas will join in the voting. The pair of mascots receiving the most votes will be announced as the winner on 28 February. The Mascot Selection Panel will then decide names for the winning mascots and these will make their formal debut in July or August 2018.