Japan scraps Olympic logo amid plagiarism claims

An employee removes a Tokyo 2020 Olympic poster showing the copied logo. Picture: Getty
An employee removes a Tokyo 2020 Olympic poster showing the copied logo. Picture: Getty
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TOKYO Olympic organisers yesterday decided to scrap the logo for the 2020 Games following another allegation its Japanese designer might have used copied materials.

Reversing their earlier support for designer Kenjiro Sano against allegations of plagiarising the design, the organisers said the decision came after new accusations over the weekend. “We have reached a conclusion that it would be only appropriate for us to drop the logo and develop a new emblem,” said Toshio Muto, director general of the Tokyo organising committee.

“At this point, we have decided that the logo cannot gain public support.”

The logo has faced scrutiny since a Belgian designer took legal action saying that it resembled one of his works that was created for a theatre.

Organisers had defended Mr Sano during a news conference last Friday when they released his original design, which had been altered into its final shape, to stress its authenticity. That, instead, triggered fresh allegations over the initial “T” design.

Mr Sano, 43, stood by his design but offered to withdraw the logo during a discussion with the organisers yesterday morning.

Mr Muto said the organising committee will have another competition to decide a new logo “as soon as possible,” though he did not give a schedule.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters before the announcement that the organising committee was making “an appropriate decision” and that the Olympics in Japan must be an event that is celebrated by everyone.

The logo scandal is another embarrassment for Japan, which scrapped the initial design of the main stadium for the Olympic Games following a public uproar over its skyrocketing cost estimates.

The delay caused by that revision meant the new stadium will not be ready for the 2019 Rugby World Cup as had been initially promised, and organisers and builders will now be struggling to meet the revised deadline of January 2020 that has been set by the International Olympic Committee.

Mr Sano, who has faced allegations of plagiarism since the logo’s July debut, now faces being given the reputation of an habitual plagiariser.

The latest suspicion surfaced over the weekend, when he was alleged to have taken a photo from someone else’s website of material used in Olympic logo presentations apparently without permission.

He allegedly lifted a photo of a Tokyo airport lobby, which was posted on the internet, and superimposed his logo on banners and signposts in the photo to show how it would look. Details in the two photos, including people on the floor and the size of the banners, were identical in original footage.

Mr Sano has previously acknowledged that eight of the 30 designs he used for a brewery’s promotional tote bags included copies of other people’s works. In those, however, he held his assistants responsible for having “traced” the images and he only apologised for the lack of oversight.

He also faces allegations that his design for a zoo in central Japan and another for a public museum outside Tokyo have close resemblance to others’ works that had been published before him.

“I want Mr Sano to provide an explanation. I feel like we have been betrayed,” Tokyo governor Yoichi Masuzoe said.