Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto welcomed Thursday’s decision by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan to remove a logo from its website that Olympic organizers had deemed “offensive.” Speaking to reporters in an online news conference Thursday, Muto said organizers immediately reached out to the FCCJ upon hearing of the satirical logo, which is featured on the cover of the April issue of the club’s monthly magazine and depicted an image similar to the Tokyo 2020 logo with “COVID-19” written underneath.
“Last week, we acknowledged the issue at hand when we received an inquiry from a person from the media,” Muto said. “Right after we received this inquiry, our spokesperson (Masa Takaya) contacted the FCCJ and verbally protested what had happened. Then we were asked to submit a document with regards to our protest. So we did.” Takaya clarified it was a member of his team, and not him directly, who contacted the FCCJ.
Muto said organizers, while offended by the logo, also considered it a copyright issue.
“Yes we did and we stated that,” Muto said.
He denied any legal threats were made in the request to remove the image.
FCCJ President Khaldon Azhari also held an online media briefing Thursday to address the removal, saying it was an issue of copyright, not freedom of expression.
“The board consulted with our lawyers and specialized experts, legal experts, on the copyright issue and we were advised very clearly that our case in Japan was not strong,” he said, reading from a statement.
“Also considering that we are in the midst of a global pandemic and the world is in crisis, both in Japan and in more than 70 countries, we decided that now is not the time to enter into a legal dispute over copyright.” The link of the games and COVID-19 was the source of the organizers’ protests.
“When we made a request to the FCCJ about the emblem design, we told them that the emblem design is very offensive because many people are still suffering from COVID-19 around the world.” Muto says removing the logo was the appropriate response and the outcome organizers were seeking.
Azhari acknowledged the cover may have caused offense.
“We are all in this coronavirus crisis together and clearly the cover offended some people in our host country Japan,” he said. “Many of whom have seen family members become ill and even die. While in Tokyo we are all in a form of restricted activities.” Azhari restated the FCCJ’s mission would remain unchanged.
“In the FCCJ’s 75-year history it has always stood as a beacon for the freedom of the press in Japan and continues to stand for those values,” he said.
Also on Thursday, Muto was asked about an interview IOC president Thomas Bach gave to BBC Sports in which he acknowledged the 2020 Games would have to be canceled if unable to be held next year.
He wasn’t, however, ready to issue a response.
“We are aware of President Bach’s comments in the press interview,” Muto said. “Since we haven’t had a chance to speak with him directly, we would like to withhold our comments about his statement.”