New Tokyo Olympics logo has historic echoes

Japanese artist Asao Tokoro's design is "like my own child" and incorporates "ichimatsu moyo", a pattern that dates back to the Edo period.
Japanese artist Asao Tokoro's design is "like my own child" and incorporates "ichimatsu moyo", a pattern that dates back to the Edo period.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO • The organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics unveiled a new logo yesterday, featuring traditional Japanese designs - seven months after they were forced to scrap the original motif over accusations of plagiarism.

The new logo, chosen from more than 14,000 submissions, has an indigo-blue chequered pattern called "ichimatsu moyo" that dates back to the Edo period (1603-1868).

Each rectangle in the design represents differences in culture and nationalities and symbolises "unity in diversity", the committee that chose the emblem said.

"It took me a long time to create this logo - it's like my own child," Tokyo-based artist Asao Tokoro said. "I can't be an athlete but I have felt a longing towards the Olympics since I was a child, and thought I can be involved through design."

The committee members emphasised the transparency of the selection process, saying the logo was selected through an open competition - the first in Olympic history - in an effort to overcome setbacks caused by previous missteps.

A dispute over the original logo erupted soon after it was unveiled last July, when a Belgian-based designer said it was too similar to his emblem for a theatre, demanding its use be halted and filing a lawsuit in a local court.

The logo's designer, Kenjiro Sano, and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics organisers denied the pattern had been copied but eventually scrapped it, saying its reputation was too damaged to be used.

Japan's second hosting of the Summer Games after Tokyo held the 1964 Olympics has been hampered by a series of setbacks, including a complete overhaul of the stadium design, after it was abandoned in response to growing public anger over soaring costs.

The mishaps have tarnished Japan's reputation as an efficient organiser, which helped Tokyo win hosting rights for the Games over Madrid and Istanbul in 2013.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2016, with the headline 'New Tokyo Olympics logo has historic echoes'. Subscribe