Child’s play for or­gan­is­ers to choose Tokyo 2020 mas­cots

New Straits Times - - Sport -

TOKYO: De­spite sev­eral high-pro­file gaffes in their 2020 Olympic prepa­ra­tions, Tokyo 2020 or­gan­is­ers reckon choos­ing the Games mas­cots will be child’s play — so much so they’re leav­ing the de­ci­sion to schoolkids.

Ja­panese or­gan­is­ers an­nounced yes­ter­day that the of­fi­cial 2020 mas­cots would be de­cided by a na­tion­wide com­pe­ti­tion, in which mem­bers of the public will sub­mit de­signs be­fore el­e­men­tary school­child­ren across the coun­try se­lect win­ners from a short­list.

Bud­ding de­sign­ers have a twoweek win­dow from Aug 1-14 to sub­mit en­tries, af­ter which a mas­cot panel will com­pile a short­list in De­cem­ber.

Ja­panese school­child­ren, who could have a bet­ter han­dle on the squidgy mas­cots than or­gan­is­ers who have hith­erto bun­gled the roll­out of the Olympic sta­dium and of­fi­cial logo, will fin­ish vot­ing on the short­list in Jan­uary.

The win­ning de­signs will be an­nounced in March, with the mas­cots to be given of­fi­cial names by Au­gust 2018.

Mas­cots — of­ten re­ferred to in Ja­panese as ‘yuru-kyara’ (soft char­ac­ters) — are big busi­ness in Ja­pan and have be­come part of the cul­tural land­scape.

The mar­ket for char­ac­ters like Ku­ma­mon, a gi­ant black bear with red cheeks which rep­re­sents Ku­mamoto pre­fec­ture, and his bit­ter ri­val Fu­nassyi — a hy­per­ac­tive ‘pear fairy’ with a love for heavy me­tal — is an eye-wa­ter­ing US$30 bil­lion (RM129 bil­lion) a year, with mas­cots adorn­ing ev­ery­thing from key-chains to planes.

Tokyo or­gan­is­ers are bat­tling to rein in ru­n­away costs for the 2020 Olympics which have cast a shadow over prepa­ra­tions.

The city’s bid com­mit­tee es­ti­mated costs of US$7 bil­lion and pro­jected an eco­nomic wind­fall in ex­cess of US$25 bil­lion.

But a panel of ex­perts have warned the over­all bud­get could ex­ceed that with­out dras­tic cuts.

That warn­ing came af­ter Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe tore up the orig­i­nal plans for the Olympic sta­dium over soar­ing costs and or­gan­is­ers scrapped the first de­sign for the 2020 Games logo af­ter ac­cu­sa­tions of pla­gia­rism.

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