Voting for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games mascots has officially begun, with elementary school children set to select their favourite from a shortlist.
Three mascot pairings were unveiled by organisers last week, following a review of 2,042 entries submitted by the public.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Fuchu Keyakinomori Gakuen special needs school as well as Tobitakyu Elementary School were among the first to take part in voting.
Pupils were encouraged to discussing the designs in their classes, before coming to a unanimous choice among the whole class.
Tokyo 2020 have expressed their hope the process will help with the engagement of children across Japan.
Tokyo 2020, in conjunction with the University of Tsukuba and the Japan Sports Agency, has prepared a proposed lesson plan for teachers.
The plan suggests between one and three 45-minute classes, which will be designed at helping teachers communicate Olympic and Paralympic values and to explain the roles played by the Games mascots.
“I would like to ask schools to take this opportunity to engage students in discussions before voting,” said Yoshirō Mori.
“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.”
Over 6,000 schools have already registered to be part of the voting process, including 43 overseas and nine international schools in Japan.
It is expected that 6.5 million children in Japan will have the chance to be part of the competition.
The vote at the Tobitakyu Elementary School took place close to where football, rugby and modern pentathlon events will be held in Tokyo’s Chofu city, home of Tokyo Stadium.
It is also located close to the newly opened 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.
It was the first of eight new permanent venues being constructed for the Games to be unveiled.
Children at the Tokyo Metropolitan Fuchu Keyakinomori Gakuen special needs school were aided by organisers providing model versions of the mascots.
It is hoped by allowing the children to hold the models, it will allow for visually impaired children to be included in the process.
“The mascot for any Olympic and Paralympic Games is always idolised,” said Andrew Parsons, International Paralympic Committee President.
“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."
The Yoshiida Elementary School of Fukushima City, located near one of the areas impacted by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster were also among the first to take part in the voting.
Elementary schools will vote for their favourite pairing of mascots until February 22.
Results of the vote will be announced on February 28.
“This is an innovative way of engaging the public in the Olympic Movement, especially the young children,” said John Coates, International Olympic Committee Coordination Commission chair.
“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.”
A mascot review panel chose the three designs in October, having already reduced the number of entries to 16.
In August, Tokyo 2020 revealed they had received 2,042 designs in their mascot design competition.
This included 1,774 designs from individuals and 268 group entries submitted before the August deadline.