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2011–2015, 2015–2016 2015 2016–2021
2011–2015, 2015–2016 2015 2016–2021

The 2020 Summer Olympics (officially the Games of the XXXII Olympiad) and the 2020 Summer Paralympics (officialy the XVI Paralympic Games), both commonly referred to as Tokyo 2020, were two international multi-sport events that took place from 23 July to 8 August 2021 and 24 August to 5 September 2021, respectively, in Tokyo, Japan.

The games were originally scheduled to take place respectively from 24 July to 9 August 2020 and 25 August to 6 September 2020, prior to the events' postponement by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[1] Despite the rescheduling of the events, the event retained its original branding.

2011–2015, 2015–2016

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Designer:  Ai Shimamine
Typography:  FF DIN
Launched:  30 November 2011

The official Olympic bid logo for Tokyo 2020 was unveiled on 30 November 2011, following a nationwide competition for an applicable design. The logo was created by Joshibi University of Art and Design student Ai Shimamine,[2] and exhibits a wreath composed of cherry blossoms, a well-known floral symbol of Japan. It incorporates the blue, yellow, green and red of the Olympic Rings, and purple, representing the Edo period (1603–1868). 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 because they carry a message of "coming back again". She saw Japan's hosting of the Olympics and Paralympics as an opportunity to reinvigorate the country through sport. The logo was accompanied by the bid motto "Discover Tomorrow".

2011–2012 Applicant City

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As is standard with Olympic bid applicants, the applicant variant of the bid logo excluded the Olympic Rings.

2012–2013 Candidate City

Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid candidate city logo.svg

Tokyo was declared an official candidate for the 2020 Olympics on 23 May 2012. With this announcement, the Olympic Rings were added to the bottom of the logo along with the words "Candidate City".

2013–2015, 2015–2016 Interim

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Tokyo won the rights to host the games at the 125th IOC Session in Buenos Aires, Argentina. This logo remained as an interim logo until the unveiling of the official emblems. This logo was briefly reinstated in September 2015 as the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (TOCOG) took down their first official emblems amid allegations of plagiarism.

July–September 2015


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Designer:  Kenjiro Sano
Typography:  Clarendon
Sweet Sans
Launched:  24 July 2015

The first iteration of the games' emblems were unveiled during an event at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Citizen's Plaza on 24 July 2015, five years before the original date of the Olympic Opening Ceremony.[3][4] The emblems were designed by Kenjiro Sano, a graduate of the Department of Graphic Design at Tama Art University and winner of awards such as the New York ADC Gold Award and the Cannes Lions Gold. His designs were chosen from 104 submissions from across Japan.

The Olympic emblem was an expression of the fundamental mission of the Olympic movement; to unite the world through sport. The "T" shape of the emblem was inspired by the Didot and Bodoni typefaces, whose highly serifed forms were seen by Sano as having "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 uniting as one team

As black is the considered a 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 its red colour represents a beating heart. It alludes to the Japanese flag, and the geographic position of Japan on the world map; in the top right corner. The negative space of the two irregular triangles that form a circle represents an open, transparent world. The use of gold in the top left triangle pays homage to the logo of the previous games held in Tokyo in 1964.

The Paralympic emblem was similar to its Olympic counterpart, but has two black pillars positioned to the sides as opposed to one in the centre. The two pillars represent the equal sign ("="), showing the Paralympics as an event that shares the same ideals as the Olympics and holds Paralympians to the same standards of those of the Olympic Games. It could also be interpreted as the Roman numeral for the number two, representing 2020 marking the second time Tokyo played host to the Games, as well as it being the only city at the time to host the Olympics and Paralympics within the same year twice.

Reactions to the logos were mixed; some praised its simplicity and symbolism, while others called it bland and deemed it unfit for a sporting event. Many were mystified by the use of Clarendon as the main typeface, and some observers spotted that it resembled the logo of the J.League.

Plagiarism disputes

After the designs were unveiled, allegations arose that the emblem plagiarised the logo of Théâtre de Liège, a Belgian performance arts studio.[5] Olivier Debie, the creator of that theatre's logo, claimed that the Tokyo 2020 emblem was too similar to his own work, and was considering action against the TOCOG. Even though the theatre's logo was not registered as a trademark, he still insisted the emblem was a work of plagiarism as it had been available online for two years. The design also was accused of plagiarising a poster conceived by Hey Studios in Barcelona, which was created during the rebuilding of Japan after the 2011 tsunami. The studio stated they "would be proud if it inspired an emblem for a major event, but it was probably a coincidence".

On 5 August 2015, Sano stated that he had not seen Debie's design and that he would never plagiarise.[6] On 29 August, the Japanese Olympic Committee issued a statement saying that they still saw the emblem as a piece of original work, as it believed it had many characteristics that were not present in Liege's logo. Officials also unveiled Sano's initial blueprint, stating that its emphasis on the "T" bore no resemblance to the theatre's logo.

Revisions of the Olympic emblem

“Of course I didn't take [Debie's logo] as an example, there is absolutely nothing to that talk.”
Kenjiro Sano

Sano then came under fire for using photos from multiple online sources without permission that were manipulated to showcase the possible use of his emblems on buildings and interiors during the event. The images he used were sourced from blogs and commercial websites, but he had not sought out official permission to use them before they were made publicly available.

Breakdown of the image sources

Further concerns arose surrounding the emblems after a number of plagiarism claims emerged involving other designs created by Sano. His office requested that beverage company Suntory pull several tote bag designs for a beer brand, stating that designers had traced those designs from a third party. The Higashiyama Zoo and Botanical Gardens began an investigation of their current logo from 2012, which was designed by Sano, after comments that it was identical the logo of the National Museum of Costa Rica. American artist Josh Divine also claimed that Sano's logo for Gunma Prefecture, a museum/library in Ota, was similar to a design of his own.[7]


The TOCOG continued to defend Sano's work, but became inundated with pressure to pull the design after the plagiarism accusations. The logo's retraction was also requested by Sano himself, who stated that he felt the controversy was starting to damage the reputation of the Tokyo games, as well as his own. They both conceded that this emblem had become "a PR disaster", and decided to retire it just over a month after it had been introduced.

“We became aware of new things this weekend and there was a sense of crisis that we thought could not be ignored. (...) We have decided that the logo cannot gain public support.”
Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

On 2 September 2015, the Sano-designed emblems were officially scrapped,[8] and the official website and social media channels reverted to using the interim emblem by Shimamine until a new emblem could be selected. On 27 January 2016, Debie stated he would drop the suit against the TOCOG, citing mounting legal costs.


2015 Redesign Contest

Template found on website during the submission process

In September 2015, the TOCOG established a committee to select new emblems for the 2020 Games, consisting of athletes, design experts and Japanese sports personnel.[9] Among the responsibilities of this committee were to consider the events that led to the former emblem's withdrawal and to make policies for judging future emblem designs.

The new logo was decided by the committee as part of an open competition among Japanese citizens and residents. The submission period ran from 24 November to 7 December 2015, with a total of 14,599 submissions received; 12,900 of which came from individual designers and primary school students, with participant ages ranging from 12 months to 107 years old.[10] Strict copyright checks were conducted on all designs by the committee and the IOC. The shortlist of four finalists was revealed at the Toranomon Hills Mori Tower on 8 April 2016.[11]


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Designer:  Asao Tokolo
Typography:  Custom (based on FF DIN)
Launched:  25 April 2016

On 25 April 2016, it was announced that the winner of the redesign contest was the "Harmonized chequered emblem" design created by Asao Tokolo,[12] a Tokyo Zokei University graduate with several exhibitions in local museums such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Tokyo and the NTT InterCommunication Center.

Winner unveiling, 25 April 2016

“My 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”
Asao Tokolo[13], designer of the emblem in an interview with Associated Press

The emblems, which resemble Ai Shimamine's 2011 bid logo, both consist of 45 boxes of three varying ratios arranged into a wreath shape, with the names of both events set in a custom typeface based on FF DIN. The "ichimatsu moyou" (市松模様) is a common design among many cultures, as well as in Edo period Japan. Each of the boxes represent different nations, varying in culture, size and thoughts, showcasing "unity in diversity"; it unifies the nations using the Olympics and Paralympics as platforms to promote peace. The emblems are set in an indigo-blue colour, expressing the elegance and sophistication that Japan is renowned for.

The Paralympic emblem uses the since-retired version of the Agitos; replaced in 2019 by North's refresh of the symbol. While the official emblem still uses the previous Agitos, including on venue dressing, the new Agitos is prominently displayed on the OBS on-air presentation and in parts of the Opening Ceremony.

See also

Notes and references

External links

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