Tokyo 2020 designer hits out at Olympic logo plagiarism claims

Kenjiro Sano, who designed the 2020 Games logo, has rebuffed claims that he copied the logo for a Belgian theatre.


The Japanese designer who created the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic logos has hit out at claims he plagiarised the design, saying there is “absolutely no truth” to the suggestions.

Kenjiro Sano, founder of consultancy MR_DESIGN, held a news conference in Tokyo this week to address claims made by Belgian designer Olivier Debie that the Tokyo logo is too similar to an identity he created for Theatre de Liege in 2011.

Debie had apparently sent a letter to the Tokyo Olympic organisers demanding a response to his allegations.

According to Reuters, Sano strenuously denied the claims, saying: “Of course I didn’t take that [logo] as an example, there is absolutely nothing to that talk.”

He told the press conference: “I take a lot of time with every design, nurturing them like children. So for this kind of talk to emerge is really unfortunate and kind of sad.

“If you’re creative, you never start from zero and are influenced by a lot of things just through daily life. But it’s also a point of pride that as somebody creative, you would never plagiarise.”

In a statement, the Games organisers say: “In developing the emblems, Tokyo 2020 went through a regular verification procedure and chose the logo after a long, comprehensive and transparent process.

“Prior to the announcement of the emblem, the IOC and Tokyo 2020 conducted extensive research on trademark protections internationally. We did not identify any particular issues through the thorough process and then became confident about releasing the emblem.”

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic identities were revealed on 24 July and are both made of elements that represent “the power of unity”, according to the Games’ Organising Committee.

Both are made up of four elements – a black column, a red circle and gold and silver curves. The identities are based on the use of negative space and are designed as the reverse of each other.

The organisers say the “T” shape of the Olympic logo stands for Tokyo, Tomorrow and Team, while the Paralympic logo is inspired by = the universal sign of equality.

Discover more:

• Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic logos play with negative space

Hide Comments (7)Show Comments (7)
  • John Frieda August 5, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    Here’s me thinking it was sponsor…inspired by Lucky Strike.

  • John Scarratt August 6, 2015 at 10:29 am

    I had no idea that Olivier Debie had copyrighted rectangles and curvy triangles. I think I owe him some money.

  • Nicola Schwandner August 6, 2015 at 11:05 am

    The ‘T’ has been explained, but what does the ‘L’ stand for in the Olympic logo?

    • Mark Derbyshire August 6, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      It stands for LOGO obv…just kidding. Very good point, I thought the same. Does it really need the bottom triangle then?

  • Maxine Horn August 6, 2015 at 11:12 am

    There are an estimated 7,575,000 ‘unregistered designs’ produced every year, Worldwide – it is inevitable that similarities may arise due to trends, dealing with same typographical components, responding to a similar brief and many more besides.

  • Steven Hughes August 6, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    Its just a typo within logo . Its tokyo lympics 🙂

  • Adam North August 7, 2015 at 10:39 am

    It’s not an ‘L’ its just so that gymnasts can still see the ‘T’ when they are upside down!

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