Tokyo Olympics scraps logo in plagiarism row

The Kenjiro Sano-designed logo is to be dropped following claims it plagiarised the identity of a Belgian theatre.



The organising committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics has scrapped its recently unveiled logo following claims it was plagiarised.

The committee is set to halt use of the identity, which was designed by Kenjiro Sano, founder of consultancy MR_DESIGN. The Games organising committee said there were too many doubts over the emblem for it to be used.

Belgian designer Olivier Debie has claimed that the Tokyo identity is too similar to an identity he created for Theatre de Liege in 2011. Debie is reported to be suing the International Olympic Committee over the logo.

Toshio Muto, director general of the Tokyo organising committee, says: “We have considered the opinion of the judges and the organising committee, as well as Mr Sano, and have come to the decision to withdraw the current design.

“The decision to make a fresh start in creating a new logo seems to be the most appropriate.”

Muto adds: “We have an understanding that the design shows enough evidence of being different [to other designs] and, as Mr Sano suggested, the design is recognised as being an original by Mr Sano and the design committee has agreed with this assessment.

“However at the same time, when the issue has been expanded upon this far without gaining an understanding from the general public, we find this to be a problem.”

Japan’s PM backs decision to withdraw logo

According to The Japan Times, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters that the organising committee was making “an appropriate decision” and that the Olympic tournament must be an event that is celebrated by everyone.

Sano had previously hit out at claims he plagiarised the design, saying there is “absolutely no truth” to the suggestions.

In a press conference last month he strenuously denied claims he had copied Debie.

Sano denies copying

He said: “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.”

Olympics organisers had defended Sano – until now

According to the Associated Press, the Tokyo Olympic organisers had further defended Sano as recently as last week.

At a news conference in Tokyo, the organisers reportedly disclosed Sano’s initially submitted logo, saying its emphasis on a “T” shape bore no resemblance to that of Theatre de Liege.

They said a circle on the background was added later as the design was amended after the organisers found a logo that carried some similarity during their trademark search around the world to avoid any legal infringement.

Belgian logo “not a registered trademark”

The Belgian logo did not turn up during their three-month search because it wasn’t a registered trademark, they said.

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.

Tokyo has also scrapped its stadium design

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.

The move to halt use of the logo comes after the Tokyo organisers took the unusual step of scrapping their Zaha Hadid-designed Olympic Stadium in a row over costs.

The stadium decision was made earlier this year, just five years before the Games are due to start.

Discover more:

• Tokyo 2020 designer hits out at Olympic logo plagiarism claims

• Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic logos play with negative space

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