Doe-eyed superhero picked for Tokyo 2020 mascot

Tokyo Olympics organizers unveil the mascot for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and Paralympics selected by popular vote by elementary students across Japan at the Hoyonomori Gakuen School in Tokyo, Japan, February 28, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 28 February 2018

Doe-eyed superhero picked for Tokyo 2020 mascot

TOKYO: Tokyo Wednesday unveiled its long-awaited mascot for the 2020 Olympic Games: a futuristic blue-checked, doe-eyed character with pointy ears and “special powers” that was picked by schoolchildren across mascot-mad Japan.
The mascot, which has yet to be named, was selected by elementary school kids across the country from a shortlist of three competitors instantly recognizable as “made in Japan.”
The kids picked option “A,” which, according to the Tokyo 2020 organizers, has a “strong sense of justice and is very athletic.”
Helpfully, it has a magical power that enables it “to move anywhere instantaneously.”
Its Paralympic counterpart sports pink checks derived from Japan’s famous cherry blossom and is “usually calm, however, it gets very powerful when needed.”
Its magic power: “It can talk with stones and the wind. It can also move things by just looking at them.”
The pair received over 100,000 votes, more than the other two design sets combined.
Mascots are massive in Japan, the land of Hello Kitty and Pokemon, and there are literally thousands representing everything from small communities to prisons.
Known locally as “yuru-kyara” or “laid-back characters,” mascots can also be major money-spinners.
The pot-bellied, red-cheeked bear known as Kumamon — created in 2010 to promote Japan’s southern Kumamoto region — raked in $8.8 million last year for local businesses selling branded products.
The Tokyo 2020 mascot will hope to replicate the success of Soohorang, the cuddly stuffed tiger from the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang handed out to athletes on the podium.
More than 100,000 stuffed dolls (Soohorang and Paralympic mascot Banbdabi) were sold over the past year, Pyeongchang organizers said.
Soohorang sparked an inadvertant social media frenzy after a volunteer dressed up as the tiger got stuck in a doorway, needing a helper to push him through.
The 2016 Rio Olympics had a yellow feline animal representing Brazil’s rich fauna and wildlife named Vinicius after music great Vinicius de Moraes.
The Paralympic mascot, a predominantly blue and green figure whose head was covered with leaves to represent Brazil’s rich vegetation, was named Tom after musician Tom Jobim.
Brazil netted $300 million in profits from licensing intellectual property from the 2016 Games, according to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
But Wenlock and Mandeville, the widely mocked mascots of the 2012 London Games, proved far from Olympic gold.
The one-eyed characters were dubbed “bizarre” and “creepy” by some, reportedly sending shares in their manufacturer down by more than a third.
The Rugby World Cup, which takes place in Japan next year, has already unveiled a pair of pot-bellied lions as its mascots.
With luxurious manes, short horns and faces that appear to be shaped like rugby balls, mascots “Ren” and “G” are inspired by “shishi,” the mythical lion-like figure that features in Japan’s new year celebrations and kabuki theater.
Organizers turned to children to select the mascot, hoping to avoid a repeat of the bungled roll-out of the official Olympic logo, which ended up having to be scrapped following accusations of plagiarism.
It was deemed to be too similar to the logo of a Belgian theater and a separate Spanish design.


Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

This file photo taken on March 6, 2003 shows bulbs at the flower market in Amsterdam. (AFP)
Updated 16 October 2019

Tulips from Amsterdam? A blooming scam, says new probe

  • Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring

THE HAGUE: Tourists are being ripped off at Amsterdam’s famous flower market, with just one percent of all bulbs sold at the floating bazaar ever producing a blossom, investigators said Tuesday.
A probe commissioned by the Dutch capital’s municipality and tulip growers also found that often only one flower resembled the pictures on the packaging like color, and that there were fewer bulbs than advertised.
“The probe showed that there is chronic deception of consumers,” at the sale of tulip bulbs at the flower market, the Royal General Bulb Growers’ Association (KAVB) said.
“Millions of tourists and day-trippers are being duped,” KAVB chairman Rene le Clercq said in a statement.
Amsterdam and the KAVB have now referred the matter to the Dutch consumer watchdog.
The Amsterdam flower market is one of the city’s most famous landmarks and dates from around 1862, when flower sellers sailed their barges up the Amstel River and moored them in the “Singel” to sell their goods.
Its fame inspired the popular song “Tulips from Amsterdam,” best known for a 1958 version by British entertainer Max Bygraves.
Today the market comprises of a number of fixed barges with little greenhouses on top. Vendors not only sell tulip bulbs but also narcissus, snowdrops, carnations, violets, peonies and orchids.
But of 1,363 bulbs bought from the Singel and then planted, just 14 actually bloomed, the investigation said.
Investigators found a similar problem along the so-called “flower bulb boulevard” in Lisse, a bulb-field town south of Amsterdam where the famous Keukenhof gardens are also situated.
Since first imported from the Ottoman Empire 400 years ago, tulips “have become our national symbol and the bulb industry a main player in the Dutch economy,” said Le Clercq.
But the “deception about the tulip bulbs is a problem that has been existing for the past 20 years,” he added.

The victims are often tourists, KAVB director Andre Hoogendijk said.
“A tourist who buys a bad bulb is not likely to come back,” he told Amsterdam’s local AT5 news channel.
Vendors at the market told AT5 that complaints were known.
“There are indeed stalls here that sell rubbish. That is to everyone’s disadvantage, because it portrays the whole flower market in a bad light,” one unidentified vendor said.
But a spokesperson for the City of Amsterdam said that all vendors were being investigated “and that the results are shocking.”
“So to say that it is only a few stalls is not true,” the spokesperson told AFP in an email.
The probe took place earlier in the year during springtime, the spokesperson said.
“The issue is that you shouldn’t even sell tulip bulbs during the spring. No decent florist shop in Holland does that.”
Tulip bulbs should only be sold between August to December and planted before the start of the (northern hemisphere) winter, in order for the flowers to bloom in spring.