No go for Tokyo games' logo

Latest hiccup for Olympic organisers after Belgian alleges plagiarism of his design

Tokyo Olympic logo designer Kenjiro Sano explaining his design last month. The logo has been dropped after a public outcry, causing further embarrassment to Olympic organisers. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOKYO • Tokyo's 2020 Olympics organisers yesterday scrapped the event's scandal-hit logo in the latest mishap for the Games after a cost furore forced plans for a US$2 billion (S$2.8 billion) new national stadium to be torn up.

The decision - which comes amid plagiarism claims and questions about the logo designer's credibility - caps an embarrassing month for officials. The ditching of the stadium means a new showpiece may be ready only a few months before the event.

Japanese Olympics bosses announced their decision at a hastily- arranged press conference yesterday, in a stark reversal just days after they vowed to stand behind the logo and designer Kenjiro Sano.

Officials said their decision was not in response to a Belgian designer's lawsuit that alleged Sano copied his work. Instead, they pointed to slumping public confidence and evidence that Sano had improperly swiped Internet images to highlight locations where his logo could be displayed.

"We're certain the two logos are different," Toshiro Muto, director general of the Tokyo Organising Committee, said of Belgian Olivier Debie's plagiarism claims.

"But we became aware of new things this weekend and there was a sense of crisis that could not be ignored. The reason we're withdrawing (the logo) is because it no longer has public support."

Sano himself had asked that his logo be pulled to avoid damaging the Tokyo Games, Muto added.

"We want to create a new emblem that represents the Tokyo Olympics and that is loved and supported by the public," Tokyo's Olympic boss said.

While Sano has denied copying Debie's work, he has admitted that his team copied someone else's designs for work they did on a beer promotion campaign for Japanese drinks giant Suntory.

Tokyo's emblem is based around the letter T - for Tokyo, tomorrow and team - with a red circle said to represent a beating heart. Debie's emblem for Belgium's Theatre de Liege features a similar shape in white against a black background.

An online petition with over 22,000 signatures called on officials to choose another image.

"This is a matter of credibility, and I want first and foremost for Mr Sano to explain this fully - I feel I have been betrayed," Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe told reporters yesterday.

In recent days, Olympic sponsors, including Japan Airlines, have started using the logo in their advertising campaigns.

The changes could deal a blow to lucrative deals.

The stadium and logo scandals have become a major embarrassment for Japan which hosted the 1964 Summer Games.

When Tokyo beat Madrid and Istanbul to host the 2020 event, it was widely seen as a safe choice with little chance of major delays or funding problems.

Japanese Olympic officials are still smarting over the national stadium fiasco after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered plans to be torn up in the face of growing anger over its cost.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2015, with the headline No go for Tokyo games' logo. Subscribe