By Jack Tarrant
TOKYO (Reuters) – Toyko’s 2020 Olympic Games mascots headed out from the capital’s Haneda airport on Wednesday for a promotional tour of Europe, bemusing travelers with a ceremony featuring a clapping routine and a video message from veteran pop act the Backstreet Boys.
Known as Miraitowa and Someity, the pair will touch down in six European cities on their ‘Make the Beat’ tour, named after the handclap routine they performed in Haneda’s departure lounge alongside Japanese Olympic volleyball star Megumi Kurihara.
The cartoon-style mascots, described in official Tokyo 2020 biographies as having superpowers and an ability to teleport between the digital world and reality, will visit six European cities – Barcelona, Paris, Bonn, Athens, London and Lausanne – between Wednesday and the end of April.
During the tour, organizers said blue-checkered Miraitowa and Someity, whose pink design was inspired by cherry blossoms, will look to “raise excitement and enthusiasm for the Games”, which begin on July 24.
As pre-departure diners in the airport’s restaurants watched on open-mouthed, the pair were joined on a makeshift stage by model and Miss Japan 2019 winner Honoka Tsuchiya in attempting to teach the handclap routine to unsuspecting passengers, some more intent on making their flights than learning how to ‘Make the Beat’.
In the video message, Backstreet Boys singer Howie Dorough, 46, joined in the choreographed encouragement wearing a traditional Japanese ‘happi’ coat bearing colorful Tokyo 2020 designs. Since its early boy band successes, the group has toured Japan regularly and its hits are popular among English-language selections at karaoke parlors.
“For all you fans out there, who want to stay excited, just give into the moment, feel the passion in your heart and keep the Backstreet pride alive,” said Dorough.
Preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Games are now in the finishing straight, with the final test events under way and the Olympic flame due to arrive in Japan on March 20.
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell)