Tokyo Games scandal disappoints official mascot creator

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Official mascots Miraitowa, left, and Someity appear during the closing ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The creator of the official mascots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has voiced his disappointment over the bribery scandal that has tainted the event.

Prosecutors on Wednesday re-arrested Haruyuki Takahashi — a former executive board member of the Games’ organizing committee — on suspicion of accepting bribes from a maker of mascot-related goods.

“The production crew and the mascots didn’t do anything wrong, but it somehow feels like we’ve been caught up [in the scandal],” said Ryo Taniguchi, the mascots’ designer.

Takahashi, 78, allegedly received around ¥7 million between October 2018 and April 2021 from Sun Arrow Inc. after being asked by the maker to help arrange a license contract to sell stuffed toys of the mascots.

Sun Arrow began selling such toys in July 2018 after signing a contract with the organizing committee.

Elementary schoolers picked the final designs for Olympic mascot Miraitowa and Paralympic mascot Someity, who regularly appeared at various events as representatives of the Games.

According to the organizing committee, the name “Miraitowa” was coined by combining the words “mirai” (future) and “towa” (eternity) to create a term meaning “a wonderful future forever.” “Someity,” meanwhile, is a play on the Japanese cherry tree species Someiyoshino and the phrase “so mighty.”

Three designs for the mascots were initially selected by a panel of judges from the organizing committee, and then schoolchildren from about 17,000 schools in Japan and overseas made a deciding vote. Official merchandise — including stuffed toys, key chains, shirts and hats — bearing the mascots’ likenesses began to be made in July 2018.

Taniguchi, 48, said, “Even though certain individuals have caused a scandal, that in no way negates the hard work and diligence of the Games’ athletes and staffers.”