Tokyo Olympics emblem said to look similar to Belgian theater logo


A Belgium-based designer has expressed surprise on social media that the emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games unveiled last week closely resembles the logo for a theater in Liege, eastern Belgium, that his studio crafted.

“I cannot judge whether it was stolen or inspired by my work. I’m consulting with my lawyer,” Olivier Debie said on Wednesday, adding that he expects to decide this week whether to take legal action.

The 52-year-old a photo posted on Facebook of the two works side by side a few days earlier, expressing the amazement he felt when he saw them. In a separate post, his studio also said “There is a striking resemblance between the two logos.”

The emblem for the Tokyo Olympics, produced by Kenjiro Sano, a 43-year-old Japanese art director, was unveiled last Friday. It features a central column in black, which the organizing committee says was inspired by the letter T, representing Tokyo, Team and Tomorrow.

The logo for Theatre de Liege has a similar shape in white against a black background. Debie’s studio says it has been involved in the theater’s logo design project since 2011.

This could prove to be another embarrassment for the Tokyo Games organizers as some social media posters and media reports suspect the emblem was plagiarized, although organizers deny that allegation. The Japanese government and the organizers have also moved to scrap the design of the main Olympic stadium amid a public outcry over skyrocketing cost projections.

Masanori Takaya, publicity chief of the Tokyo 2020 Organizing Committee, said: “We announced the emblem after going through the international trademark registration process. We are not particularly worried about this.”

Toshiro Muto, director general of the committee, said at a press conference Friday: “We decided (on the emblem) following approvals of the International Olympic Committee and the International Paralympic Committee after completing a vetting process of international trademarks.”

Debie said that he received an email from a friend about a “look-alike” Olympic logo after Friday’s unveiling. He started consulting with his lawyer after the Liege theater said to him earlier this week that some action should be taken.

  • Al_Martinez

    Considering how Japanese companies zealously protect their intellectual property, I hope this theater goes after the TOC with equal determination. What’s good for the goose and all that.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Hard to believe that this boring design was actually approved by several groups. The original 1964 design was just fine, simple and got the point across.

  • Ahojanen

    I prefer the logo for Tokyo as a candidate city 2020, decorated with flower pedals.

  • At Times Mistaken

    I can’t wait to see the mascot.

    • J.P. Bunny

      I’m still holding out for the white elephant drowning in a pool of red ink.

  • Jen l

    I’m not a fan of the logo, but from a trademark point of view, no, they are not the same. The only similarity is the separation of the serif, which I’ve seen many times before; not unique.

    • At Times Mistaken

      Do you know of any other logos that feature similar elements like these do or other logos (incorporating the letter “T”) that are similar to these two?

      • At Times Mistaken

        The Twitterati are also saying the logo is a mashup of Hey Studio’s Rebuild Japan logo and the Liege Theatre logo. I see the similarities but I guess all artists dip their brush into the same collective palette with layers of colors that have built up over time so it’s probably not all that unnatural to find familiar shades in different works. Still, not being pleased with how these Tokyo games have played out so far, it’s not without a little schadenfreude that I read about this latest Olympic failure.

  • Hellokitty

    definitely there are similarities.

  • Janses

    Change the logo Japan !

  • tisho

    If this was happening in Korea, all hell would’ve broken loose. It would’ve been the number one reported story in Japan for several months.

  • tetriminos

    look at the way the curves are exactly the same. i don’t think that’s coincidence

  • JP

    The logo of Tokyo 2020 Olympic game is nothing but a conventional and hackneyed design, which contains merely rectangle and circle. Therefore there must be a lot of logos which are similar to logo of Tokyo 2020 Olympic. With much conviction I’d say that the work was far from top-notch designers outcome.

    We Japanese people have been traditionally so decorous that once misgiving of plagiarism comes up, we have been able to gracefully back out of subsequent idea. That is the protection of Intellectual property right policy. How does Japanese economy can still grow up without the protection of Intellectual property right? Now it’s time to withdraw plagiarism suspected Tokyo Olympic logo. Please commit, before it will be too late.