Amidst ongoing plagiarism controversy, IOC dumps design

Not going to rehash too much (you can read the entire sordid tale here) but here’s the abbreviated version. In July, the IOC announced a new logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

It was pretty sad.

A designer in Belgium claimed it was a rip-off of a logo he designed for some theater (it probably wasn’t, but whatever) and people flipped out.

During the ensuing flare-up, it was discovered that Kenjiro Sano, the designer of the Olympics logo had knocked some stuff off. He copped to that, but protested his innocence on the IOC logo. Similarities, real and imagined, between his work started to pop up everywhere.

The IOC stood their ground, claiming that they had performed trademark searches which meant their logo was legal and original (that didn’t necessarily follow – the theater logo didn’t need to be trademarked) and that if everyone could just calm the fuck down, that would be great.

Lawsuits were launched.

People yelled it each other on Twitter and a good time was had by all. That’s sort of where we left off, so here’s the rest of the story..

Olympic officials hold press conference. Deny plagiarism claims.

In a  sisyphean attempt to quell the mounting criticism, Japanese Olympic officials held a press conference in Tokyo last Friday where they dug in their heels some more. Organizers showed reporters Kenjiro Sano’s initially submitted logo, as well as the revisions to it, saying the logo’s emphasis on a “T” shape bore no resemblance to that of Theater de Liege.
They claimed that circle was added later as the design was amended after finding a logo that bore some similarity during that trademark search we talked about earlier. They reiterated that the Belgian logo did not turn up during their three-month search because it wasn’t a registered trademark (it sill doesn’t matter, but whatever.)

“We are convinced that the design of the Tokyo Olympics logo is original,” said Toshio Muto, director general of the Tokyo organizing committee.

Kazumasa Nagai, a celebrated Japanese graphic designer who headed the selection committee for the 2020 Olympic logo, said it’s not unusual to find small similarities in designs, especially in those comprised of simple shapes like circles, triangles and bold letters (that’s actually true.)

“Under normal circumstances, it’s not such a big deal, but this is for the Olympics which reaches everywhere and gets so much attention. I think that’s why it has caused a problem,” he said. “Even though it is said to have a little resemblance, I believe it is purely by coincidence.”

The organizers opined that Sano’s design was “outstanding,” that they didn’t consider other options and plans to promote the logo were still moving ahead. Well, guess that’s settled then, right?

Ahm, not quite.

Olympic officials do about face. Dump logo.

The denials of plagiarism didn’t go quite as smoothly as organizers had hoped. It was alleged that Sano had used copyrighted photographs in his presentation without permission (this guy, huh?) The organizers acknowledged that infraction. People also pointed out that the original pre-revision logo looked like something from a poster announcing an exhibit of German typographer, Jan Tschichold (Sano announced on Twitter that he had attended.)


On Tuesday, and in a remarkable about face, IOC announced that they were dumping the logo and set about erasing images from the internet. It disappeared from official sites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages and the announcement video vanished from YouTube.

To say this was a colossal fail would be a disservice to colossal fails.

Moving on.

What’s next for the beleaguered organizers? Twitter piped up, suggesting they just go with the bid city logo, a decent design (if not a bit “safe” but safe should probably be high on IOC minds at the moment.)

Here’s what that looked like:

That would be far too easy. Instead, the IOC is holding a logo design contest.

Gluttons for punishment these guys.