The campaign to select the Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ has taken another step forward, with three shortlisted designs now being prepared for the public vote that will take place across Russia in Autumn 2016.

A tiger, wolf and cat have emerged as the finalists, with each character brought to life thanks to the efforts of three Russian student designers. Each of the designers, all from Russian art universities, today attended an award ceremony in Moscow to celebrate the selection of their characters to advance to the third and final stage of the campaign.

Russia 2018 Local Organising Committee (LOC) CEO Alexey Sorokin was present at the ceremony to reward the shortlisted students and mark the end of the second stage of the mascot-development campaign. Sorokin revealed how inspired he was by their creativity and desire to be part of the World Cup in Russia.

“It's a great pleasure to see these young and happy faces,” Sorokin declared while handing out certificates to the three designers. “When we thought up this competition, we were confident that a positive young audience would rise to the challenge. You've created some fascinating designs, one of which will become one of the main brand assets of the tournament and a hero for millions of World Cup supporters.”

The three young women arrived at the award ceremony in Moscow from across the country. Ekaterina Bocharova had the longest journey to the capital, coming from the Department of Graphic Design at Tomsk State University in Siberia. Ekaterina opted to draw a wolf, inspired by Russian cartoons and her dog, named Tyson.

“I've always liked drawing animals and all kinds of cartoon characters,” says Ekaterina, explaining her choice to sign up to the competition. “Plus I also love watching football. I decided that I simply couldn't miss out on the chance to do what I love.”

Valeria Taburenko, from the Saint Petersburg State University of Technology and Design, chose to depict a tiger. Valeria loves animated cartoons and has watched all the best films from well-known international and Russian studios.

“They regularly post ads at our university about competitions that students can get involved in,” Valeria reveals. “Of course, such an interesting project like creating the Russia 2018 mascot was no exception. I immediately wanted to take part, even just for the sake of experience.

“It's always interesting how the final project will turn out and how I will approach the task. The news that the panel had picked out my design was the perfect reward for getting actively involved.”     

Sofia Podlesnykh, meanwhile, was representing Yaroslav-the-Wise Novgorod State University at the award ceremony with her design of a cat. Once she found out that the LOC and FIFA were opening up the competition to university students, Sofia immediately sent in her application.

“I didn't have to think twice about whether to work on this project,” said the student from Veliky Novgorod. “When designing my cat, I was guided by the World Cup's signature style and the general official style of the tournament.”

Immediately before the ceremony, held in the Russian Ministry of Sport, the students attended a special seminar on designing the mascot. FIFA and LOC design experts also attended the seminar, along with representatives from the design agency tasked with finalising the three characters and ensuring they are aligned with all requirements. Now fans across the country need to patiently wait for these adjustments to be completed. The characters designs will be unveiled to the public and put to a nationwide vote in Autumn 2016 to choose the Official Mascot for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.    

The three designs were selected by a specially appointed jury panel, which included Russia goalkeeper and Russia 2018 Ambassador Igor Akinfeev, director Fedor Bondarchuk, actor Viktoriya Tolstoganova, television presenter Oxana Federova, music producer Victor Drobysh, singer Polina Gagarina, members of the theatrical group 'Kvartet I' Leonid Barats and Rostislav Khait, designer Igor Gurovich and Chairman of the Board of Directors at the company 'State Sports Lottery' Armen Sarkisyan.