Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid applicant city logo Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid candidate city logo Tokyo 2020 interim Tokyo 2020 1st Generation
2011-2012 2012-2013 2013-July 2015, September 2015-2016 1st Generation Olympics
Tokyo 2020 1st Generation Paralympics T2020 shortlist assortment Tokyo 2020 New 2020 Summer Paralympics Emblem
1st Generation Paralympics 2nd Generation Shortlist (2016) 2nd Generation (2016-2020) 2nd Generation (2016-2020)

Bidding & Interim Process (2011–2016)


Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid applicant city logo

The official Olympic bid logo for Tokyo 2020 was unveiled on November 30, 2011 after a nationwide competition for an applicable design. The logo's design was created by Joshibi University of Art and Design student, Ai Shimamine.

The emblem exhibits a wreath composed of cherry blossoms, a well-known floral symbol of Japan. It incorporates the colours of the Olympic Rings as well as Purple, which celebrates the Edo period. The circular shape represents diversity with each petal representing the importance and dependencies of the world's people with one another. According to an interview with Shimamine, the wreath was included as she saw that wreaths "carry a message of 'coming back again'." She saw the hosting of the Olympics as an opportunity to reinvigorate Japan through sport.


Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid candidate city logo

Tokyo was declared an official candidate for the 2020 Summer Olympics on May 23, 2012. To reflect this move, the Olympic Rings were added to the bottom of the logo along with the words 'Candidate City'.

2013–July 2015, September 2015–2016

Tokyo 2020 interim

Tokyo won the rights to host the games at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. As such, the words 'Candidate City' was removed. This logo remained as an interim logo until the unveiling of the first version of its official emblem. This logo was reinstated in September 2015 as the organising committee took down the first design amid allegations of plagiarism.

During the process of the emblem's redrawing, the committee used a number of wordmarks as placeholders for the upcoming emblem. They were the words 'Tokyo 2020' typed in a sans serif typeface.

1st Generation (July 2015–September 2015)

1st Generation Olympics

Tokyo 2020 1st Generation

The first version of the games' emblems for both the Olympics and Paralympics were presented via a special event in Tokyo at 7pm of the 24th of July 2015, exactly 5 years before the Olympic opening ceremony.

Both the Olympic and Paralympic symbols were designed by Kenjiro Sano; a graduate of the Department of Graphic Design at Tama Art University and winner of many graphic design awards such as the New York ADC Gold Award and the Cannes Lions Gold.

The symbol was chosen from 104 submissions and explores the fundamental mission of the Olympic movement which is to unite the world through sport. This is shown through various means and techniques in this emblem.

  • The 'T' shape of the emblem was inspired by the typefaces Didot and Bodoni whose highly serifed forms were seen by Sano as to have 'appealing strength and sensitivity'. It embodies the three themes of the emblem's design:
    • Tokyo - the host city of the event and the meeting point of the world's athletes.
    • Tomorrow - the ambition of the event to construct a better, more connected future for the world.
    • Team - the entire world unites as one team.
  • As black is the combination of all colours, the central pillar represents tolerance and diversity regardless of race, nationality or religion.
  • The circle symbolises an all-accepting planet and it's red colour stands for a beating heart. It also not only alludes to the Japanese flag, but the geographic position of Japan on the world map; in the top right corner.
  • The circle re-enforced by the negative space of the two irregular triangles denotes an open, transparent world.
  • The use of gold in the top left triangle pays homage to the last summer games held in Tokyo back in 1964.

Reactions to the logo were mixed; some praised its simplicity and clever symbolism while others had more critical views on the basis that it was bland and not fit for a sporting event. Many were mystified by the use of Clarendon as the main typeface. Some observers spotted that it looks similar to the logo of the Japanese football league, the J. League. Japanese programmer Mitsuhide Matsuda had created a font generator based on the geometric shapes of the emblem.

After the design was revealed, allegations arose that the emblem was plagiarizing the logo for Théâtre de Liège, a Belgian performance arts studio. Olivier Debie, the creator of the theatre's logo claimed that the Tokyo 2020 emblem was too similar to his own work and may take action against the organising committee. Even though the theatre's logo was not registered as a trademark, he still insists the emblem was a work of plagiarism as it's been available online for two years. The design also was accused of plagiarizing from a conceived by Hey Studios in Barcelona, Spain created during the rebuilding of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. The studio however reacted differently stating they "...would be proud if it inspired an emblem for a major event, but it was probably a coincidence."

On the 5th of August 2015, Kenjiro Sano responded by saying that he had never seen the design Debie claimed, and added that he had never or would never plagiarise any design. He stated on Debie's claim that "Of course I didn't take that (logo) as an example, there is absolutely nothing to that talk.". An official response on the logo from the Japanese Olympic Committee was issued on August 29 stating that they still see the emblem as a piece of original work as "it has many characteristics that are not present in Liege's logo,".

Officials took the unusual step of unveiling Sano’s initial blueprint, saying its emphasis on the “T” shape bore no resemblance to Debie’s theatre design.

Sano also came under fire for using photos from multiple online sources without seeking the permission to do so first. They were manipulated to showcase the use of the emblems on the side of buildings and their interiors during the event. The pictures he used were sourced from blogs and commercial websites, but he had not sought out official permission to use those assets prior to the project photos being made publically available.

Questions arouse further about about the Tokyo 2020 emblem after Sano's office requested to Japanese beverage company Suntory that they pull 8 of 30 tote bag designs for a beer brand. It had emerged that the designers had traced these designs "from a third party".

Other plagiarism claims have emerging since then. The Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens began an investigation of their current logo which was instated in 2012 and designed by Sano after comments that it closely matched the logo of the National Museum of Costa Rica. American artist Josh Divine claims that Sano's logo for an Art Museum and Library in Ota, Gunma Prefecture is similar to a design of his own.

The committee continued to defend Sano's work, but became inundated with pressure to pull the design following the multiple plagiarism claims against Sano. The organising committee claimed that "we became aware of new things this weekend and there was a sense of crisis that we thought could not be ignored.". The logo was generally unfavourable to the public as the committee also stated that, "we have decided that the logo cannot gain public support.". It's retraction was also requested by Sano himself saying that he feels the controversy was beginning to damage the reputation of the Tokyo games and that his own reputation was under threat. They conceded that this emblem had become a PR disaster and came to the conclusion to retire it just over a month after it had been instated.

On the 2nd of September 2015, the emblems designed by Kenjiro Sano were officially scrapped. The official website and social media channels have reverted to using the interim emblem by Ai Shimamine for the period until a new emblem can be selected. On the 27th of January 2016, Debie stated that he will drop the suit against the organising committee, citing the mounting legal costs.

1st Generation Paralympics

Tokyo 2020 1st Generation Paralympics

This paralympic emblem was near identical to its Olympic counterpart, but has two black pillars positioned to the sides as opposed to one in the middle. It represents the equal sign '=' showing the Paralympics as an event which shares the same ideals as the Olympics and holds Paralympians to the same standards of the Olympic Games. It may also be interpreted as the Roman numeral for 2, which represents the second time Tokyo plays host to the Paralympics and in inclusion, the only city at the point of writing to host the Olympics and Paralympics in the same year twice. 

Like the Olympic emblem it accompanied, the Paralympic emblem was also scrapped on the 2nd of September 2015.

2nd Generation Shortlist (2016)

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The organizers established a separate committee in September 2015 to select a new emblem for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, consisting of athletes, design experts and Japanese sports personnel. Among the responsibilities of the committee are to consider the events leading the former emblem's withdrawal and make a policy on which to judge future emblem designs.

The new logo was decided by the committee as part of an open competition among Japanese citizens and residents to create the new logo. The submission period ran from the 24th of November to the 7th of December 2015. It was reported that 14,599 submissions were received within the 2 week period; 12,900 of which came from individual designers and primary school students with participant ages ranging from 12 months to 107 years old. Strict copyright checks were conducted by the IOC on all designs and the committee. The shortlist was revealed at the Toranomon Hills Mori Tower at 5pm, 8 April 2016.

2nd Generation (2016–2020)

2nd Generation Olympics

Tokyo 2020

On April 25, 2016, the revised emblem for the games were announced as the harmonized chequered emblem: candidate A from the shortlist. The emblem was designed by Asao Tokolo, a Tokyo Zokei University graduate artist born in 1969. He had several exhibitions from local museums such as Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art and the Tokyo InterCommunication Center.

The emblem is a collection of 45 boxes of three varying heights arranged into a wreath shape. The 'Tokyo 2020' wordmark is typed in a narrow variation of DIN. In some ways, this emblem resembles the initial Applicant City emblem from 2011 as they both share the circular mosaic shape and they both use DIN as their typeface.

The checkered pattern is a common design among many cultures, as well as in Japan where it was referred to as “ichimatsu moyo” in the Edo period. Each of the boxes represents different nations, all varying in culture, size and thoughts showcasing "unity in diversity". It unifies the nations using the Olympics as a platform to promote peace. The logo is set in an indigo-blue colour expressing the elegance and sophistication which Japan is renowned for.

Speaking to Associated Press, Tokolo explained that his “mind has gone blank as I just found out my design won... I put a lot of time and effort into this design as though it was my own child.”.

The new emblem took effect around 4pm on April the 25th, being applied to the website and social media networks.

2nd Generation Paralympics

Tokyo 2020 Paralympics

Both the Olympic and Paralympic emblems were unveiled at the same time. Both emblems use the same 45-box system to create a circular shape and the same color. The Paralympic Emblem is used in unison with the Olympic emblem on social media and their website.

External links

See also