Contested Tokyo 2020 Olympic logo scrapped amid plagiarism claim


Staff Writer

In another humiliating reversal over preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the organizing committee on Tuesday scrapped the official logo after critics howled plagiarism.

The committee said it would immediately launch a competition to design a new logo but underscored that it did not decide to pull the first emblem because it believes designer Kenjiro Sano is guilty of any wrongdoing.

“We thought it might be difficult to get support from the general public” given the size that the issue has become, Toshiro Muto, director general of the organizing committee, said after an emergency meeting.

The committee said Sano requested the emblem’s withdrawal, and that he will not get paid for the design.

The contested logo, which is already widely in use in official circles and on sponsors’ materials, resembles that of a theater in Belgium. Sano has denied plagiarism, but he has faced a slew of subsequent allegations that critics said called into question the integrity of his work.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Tuesday that the organizing committee made “an appropriate decision” on the matter and that the Olympics must be an event that is celebrated by everyone.

The abrupt reversal comes after Abe in July scrapped the design for a new National Stadium intended as the centerpiece of the games, following criticism of its skyrocketing estimated cost.

Adding to the logo humiliation is the fact that only last Friday the organizing committee had defended Sano. Muto told reporters that day the logo was “totally different from the Belgian theater logo” and thus he was “convinced the Olympic emblem is original.”

Moreover, the committee had said there could be no question of plagiarism because Sano had tweaked the logo subsequent to its selection, both to avoid any similarity to registered trademarks and to meet the committee’s wish that it depict movement.

There were new whisperings against Sano on Monday, when similarities were reported between images he had used when unveiling the logo and some on the Internet.

One was of a scene at Haneda airport with the logo hanging on banners, intended to show how the emblem might be used in public.

The image was apparently a copy of one from an online blog named “Sleepwalking in Tokyo.” It had been adapted to include the logo — but it had also been trimmed, removing a copyright statement at the foot of the original image.

Online critics also laid into Sano over the original form of his logo, which was shown at the news conference last Friday.

Its design of a “T” with a red circle at its foot resembled a poster at a Jan Tschichold exhibition held in November 2013 at Ginza Graphic Gallery in Tokyo. Sano had reported on Twitter that he visited the show.

The brouhaha first erupted in August, when Sano’s final design for the Olympics logo was found to resemble the “L” form of the logo of Theatre de Liege, an arts center in the Belgian city. Designer Olivier Debie alleged plagiarism and filed a lawsuit in Belgium on Aug. 13 to prevent its use by the International Olympic Committee.

Sano’s integrity was further questioned later that month when Internet users pointed out that some of his designs for giveaway tote bags in a promotional campaign by Suntory Beer Ltd. resembled pre-existing designs. The beverage company pulled the contested products at the request of Sano’s office.

  • Firas Kraïem

    Oh I guess we can expect a ran… I mean an opinion piece from Mr. Gallagher quite soon.

  • Gimmeabreakman

    Great ending, Editor. PROOF READER!!

    • Clayton Forrester

      What’s the error? It looks OK to me.

      • At Times Mistaken

        This article seems to have been given a major overhaul since it was first published. The last paragraph did have a couple of problems before the update.

  • Id

    I think that the last presentation the committee held, showing the early version of the current design, was the final blow.
    It turns out that this early version is exactly the same as a logo used for an event in Tokyo in 2013 (expo about Jan Tschichold)!
    No way out of this one. Actually, the design company that did the Olympics logo would be so happy to only lose the design. There will certainly be a lot of lawsuits from now on, as it turns out a lot of what they did for other customers was heavily copied.

  • Jonathan Fields

    It was weird that so many people were defending the logo. It’s very obviously plagiarism. It even used the same font. I’m glad something is finally happening.

    • abctefg

      And it was fugly. How did it even get chosen?

      • Ivan

        Corruptions? Bribe?

      • Jonathan Fields

        Yeah. They’re uncovering all kinds of links between the designer and committee members.

      • Ivan

        Not surprised. Many events like the World Cup or Olympics have been known for bribe and corruption.

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, there are many people in Japan who will never admit that they’re wrong even when it is obvious to everyone else that they’re lying. They always have to do their song-and-dance routine and try to cover up their lies by putting up all kinds of smokes and mirrors. The truth always comes out in the end and the then they have egg on their face, which is what has happened in the case of the plagiarized Olympics logo.

  • Mohamed Boussetta

    Thank good they pulled it, it was ugly anyway

  • Liars N. Fools

    Why not a photo of the Belgian logo? Or is the plagiarism so blatant JT readers need to be protected?

    • Liars N. Fools

      Thank you, JT editors.

  • 大千釜 創雷

    At last. No one in Japan likes the logo. The committee made the right decision. Although, they should have done it much earlier.

  • Steve Jackman

    The organizing committee for the Tokyo Olympics must be anti-Japan and made up of Japan-haters for withdrawing the logo. That’s what I was called by several regular posters here after I wrote that the logo was clearly plagiarized, when this story first broke. I feel vindicated.

  • Anil Samal

    Its really a good decision.
    Please think that you are designing for Olympic, not for Tokyo advertisement.
    Think of the world and how to send message of a unique Japan to the world.

    You know the children participate in google doodle contest design far far better than this ugly no concept, no message logo.

  • J.P. Bunny

    Good. It’s about time some sense was shown by withdrawing this boring, unimaginative, and uninspiring logo. The original “T” with a red circle at its foot looked as if it came from a child’s wooden building blocks. The altered version definitely looks like the Belgian design, no matter what Muto says. Let the kiddies design the new logo.