A Brief History of Olympic Mascots

Mascots have been a feature of the Summer Olympic Games since 1972. The event held in Munich, Germany (at that time known as West Germany) featured a character known as Waldi as the inaugural official mascot of the summer games.

However, Waldi was not the first mascot to feature at the Olympics. During the 1968 Winter Olympics held in Grenoble, France -Schuss made his appearance. Schuss though was not an officially branded mascot so remains only as that games’ unofficial mascot. The first official Olympic mascot to appear at the winter event was not until 1976 when Schneemann was unveiled in Innsbruck, Austria. Coincidentally, as we are talking about the Tokyo Olympics to be held in 2020, the Winter Olympics held in 1972, in Sapporo, Japan did not feature a mascot, officially or unofficially.

Choosing the Official Mascots for Tokyo 2020

The submission of entries to be considered as official mascots was open from the 1st to 14th of August 2017. In total the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee received 2042 entries. Each entry was evaluated and on the 7th of December 2017 the short list of the final three entries was made public. A poll was then open to participating elementary schools from 11th December 2017 until the 22nd of February 2018. Each class in the participating elementary schools was then given just one vote. The final result was announced just six days after the poll closed with Ryo Taniguchi’s entry being declared the winner with 109,041 votes. Kano Yano was declared the runner-up with 61,423 votes while the entry by Sanae Akimoto received 35,291 votes in third place.

Miraitowa and Someity

Miraitowa is the official mascot to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games while Someity is to be used for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. The figure of Miraitowa has a blue-checked pattern that was inspired by the official logo to these games. The figure is said to possess an old-fashioned charm combined with the innovation of using a special power, in this case the special power is instant teleportation. Someity has a similar checked pattern but in pink and is said to represent the flowers of cherry blossom trees that can be seen across much of Japan. Both mascots were unveiled to the public by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Organizing Committee on July 22nd 2018.

Miraitowa, in blue on the left is the official Olympic mascot to Tokyo 2020. While Someity, in pink on the right is the official mascot to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

 

Miraitowa is pronounced as “mee-rah-e-toh-wa,” this name in Japanese is similar to the words used for future and eternity. Someity, pronounced as “soh-may-tee” is named after a type of cherry blossom, someivoshino. It also means “so mighty” when translated. As well as being a focal symbol for the games, the mascots are also expected to bring additional finance into the city through deals involving licensing and merchandising.

Who Decided upon the Chosen Names?

Once the selection process for the mascots had ended the entries were subjected to a process of elimination that included format and design scrutiny conducted by specialists in the field of media and advertising. The mascots then had to appeal to Japanese children of elementary age. Another area the successful mascots had to show was that they “reflect the spirit and vision” of the Tokyo 2020 Games.

When the selection process was down to the final three pairs of mascots they were referred to as Pairs A, B and C. At this point in February 2018 no names were attached to the mascots. Here are the two rejected designs Pair B and Pair C.

Pair B, the creation of Kana Yano

Pair C, was created by Sanae Akimoto

A vote was then held on the 28th of May 2018 on the shortlist of names proposed by the Mascot Selection Panel. The proposed names were then subjected to a strict and vigorous process including trademark verification before they could be officially announced as the names of the mascots. It was not until the 22nd of July 2018 that the names Miraitowa and Someity were announced at a formal press conference.

Characteristics of both Mascots

Miraitowa, with its blue checked pattern is intended to hold both the traditions of the past as well as new innovations of today and into the future. It is a character with a strong sense of justice while being athletic. Miraitowa also has the ability to be superfast while able to teleport to another place in an instant. Mirai means future and towa is eternity, the name was chosen to put eternal hope into the hearts of people, worldwide.

The Paralympic mascot Someity, was the inspiration from the pink colored cherry blossom flowers. The mascot’s character is described as being calm but powerful when needed to be. The two very different personalities of these mascots that come from the digital world can transport themselves between that and the real world. An advertising theory professor, Sadashige Aoki, from Hosei University has described the mascots as following Japanese traditions while creating characters that come from the mountains, rivers, animals and plants. These are all strong natural characteristics that are important elements in Japanese traditions that everything in nature has a soul.

Ryo Taniguchi

The designer of the Olympic Mascots was Ryo Taniguchi. He is a Japanese artist from the Fukuoka Prefecture in the south of Japan. He studied art in California, USA. He has also illustrated textbooks for Japanese schoolchildren. As part of the agreement by the Olympic Committee, Ryo Taniguchi will not receive any royalty payments from licensing relating to the Olympic Mascots.

Merchandising

The expected revenue generated from the mascots is expected to be in the region of US$130 million (about 14.4 billion Yen) through its licensing and merchandising. There has been some criticism generated to the organizers of Tokyo 2020 through its management of the budget. Once the Tokyo 2020 games have reached their conclusion the intellectual property rights must be transferred to the International Olympic Committee, so after this date Tokyo will be unable to generate any more revenue from the use of the Olympic mascots.

General Reaction to the Mascots

The general reaction has been a positive one. One person described them as being cute and similar in style to the characters used in the franchise Pokemon. Another reaction was that the mascots were very Japanese, although they could have been a more rounded shape to become more huggable. The mascots will appeal more to children than to adults was another response. One criticism was that the selection process of voting should have been decided by adults and not restricted to elementary school children. The Japanese author Rurika Suzuki however felt that the mascots are very Japanese with an anime like quality. The mascots were described as being sporty in design and perfect for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.