Japanese schools gripped by election fever as Tokyo 2020 mascot vote gets underway
Voting for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots got underway on 11 December, with 6.5 million children at elementary schools across Japan given the opportunity to choose their favourite designs from three shortlisted pairs.
Over the next 10 weeks, each class will get to cast a single vote for two mascots – one for the Olympic Games and one for the Paralympic Games. The shortlist of three pairs of designs was revealed on 7 December following a review of 2,042 entries submitted by the public.
By allowing schoolchildren to determine the final designs, the Tokyo 2020 organisers are aiming to engage the youth of Japan, encouraging discussion of Olympic topics and making them fully fledged stakeholders in the Games.
“This is an innovative way of engaging the public in the Olympic Movement, especially the young children,” commented IOC Coordination Commission Chair John Coates during a visit to the Japanese capital. “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.”
Meanwhile, Tokyo 2020 President Yoshiro Mori expressed the hope that schools would maximise the opportunity for discussion and debate prior to asking their pupils to participate in the voting: “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.”
Among the first schools to cast their ballots on 11 December was Tobitakyu Elementary School in the Chofu district of the Japanese capital, home to both the Tokyo Stadium, which will host the football, rugby and modern pentathlon events at Tokyo 2020, and the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which will host badminton and the fencing component of the modern pentathlon.
Engaging schoolchildren in the build-up to Tokyo 2020 is a key strand of the organisers’ strategy. In April this year, they launched a nationwide education programme, called “Yoi Don!" (“Get Set”), whereby schools agreeing to use educational materials produced or authorised by Games organisers will receive special Tokyo 2020 “accreditation”. Many of these materials are now available for download from the Tokyo 2020 website.
To facilitate and support the mascot selection process in classrooms, Tokyo 2020 has teamed up with the University of Tsukuba and the Japan Sports Agency to produce a lesson plan template designed to help teachers communicate Olympic and Paralympic values and explain the roles played by the Games mascots.
Elementary school classes – including those at international schools in Japan or Japanese schools abroad – have until 22 February to cast their votes. The pair of mascots receiving the most votes will be announced as the winners on 28 February, with the Mascot Selection Panel then finalising the names for the winning mascots before they are officially unveiled in July or August 2018.