TOKYO, April 25, (AFP): Tokyo 2020 Olympic organisers on Monday unveiled a new “snake-eye” logo nearly eight months after the original choice was scrapped over a plagiarism scandal.
However, they faced an immediate backlash from critics calling it “dull” while in another twist, there was further embarrassment for Japanese Olympic chiefs after local media revealed the winning design well before the official announcement.
The new emblem — with roots in feudal Japan — was created by Tokyo-based designer Asao Tokolo and features a circular indigo-coloured Japanese traditional chequered pattern above the words “Tokyo 2020” and the Olympic rings.
Its three varieties of rectangular shapes represent “different countries, cultures and ways of thinking”, organisers said in a statement.
“I don’t know what to say, my mind’s gone blank,” a blushing Tokolo told a news conference.
“The Olympic logo is a traditional design resembling a snake’s eye and the other (Paralympic) is shaped like patterns often used by feudal warlords.”
Tokyo organisers were forced to ditch a logo by Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano last year following allegations it too closely resembled that of a theatre in the Belgian city of Liege created by designer Olivier Debie. Sano denied any plagiarism.
Officials insisted their decision had not been in response to a lawsuit filed by Debie but slumping public confidence as Tokyo organisers lurched from one crisis to another.
“It has been a tough process,” said Ryohei Miyata, head of the Tokyo 2020 emblem committee, after Tokolo’s artwork was chosen from a shortlist of four finalists. “But now we have a new emblem and we hope Japan will love it like a new-born baby.”
However, reaction to the new Olympic and Paralympic logos — the latter resembling a bread basket in shape — was underwhelming, with many unhappy at its lack of colour.
“What a dull emblem,” tweeted one user, with another dismissing it as a “bistro tablecloth.” Even those who approved could only muster grudging support.
“This has a Japanese look so I guess it’s a good choice,” read another tweet.
The shortlisted designs were checked against registered trademarks in cooperation with the International Olympic Committee, jittery organisers insisted, wary of further embarrassment.
The logo controversy last year came shortly after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pulled the plug on plans for a $2 billion Olympic stadium amid public anger over spiralling costs.
In the face of mounting criticism, organisers opened the selection process to the public — rather than limiting it to a small group of professional designers — in a bid to improve transparency.
But their thunder was stolen somewhat when the identity of the winning design appeared to be leaked to Japanese media, causing a stir among journalists awaiting the announcement.
“We didn’t know anything about (a leak),” Tokyo 2020 CEO Toshiro Muto insisted when asked by AFP. “Nothing was divulged until the formal announcement from our side.”
Tokyo organisers received nearly 14,600 suggestions, including more than a thousand by Japanese schoolchildren.
The losing designs featured images of a morning glory flower, an athlete crossing a finish line, and a multi-coloured ring symbolising harmony.
“My heart is a-flutter over the new logo,” said Miyata. “I’m almost sad the selection process is over.”