Skip to main content

The story behind Tokyo's winning 2020 Olympics logo

The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio is fast approaching, and once they've drawn to a close, the eyes of the sporting world will turn to Tokyo, which has just been selected as the home of the 22nd Games in 2020.

It's a huge boost for Japan, still recovering from the effects of the 2011 Tsunami. And while it's difficult to ascertain just how much contribution the bid's branding made to its victory, it's certainly not going to harm the career of Ai Shimamine, who designed the winning bid's logo (above).

Student entry

Shimamine submitted the design to a national competition held to pick a logo while she was in her final year as a student at Joshibi University of Art and Design. It's based around a wreath of cherry blossoms, Japan’s most celebrated flower and an integral part of the nation's cultural life.

The traditional Olympic colours of red, yellow, green and blue are combined with purple, which represents the celebrated Edo period of Japanese history. The circular shape of the logo is designed to symbolise a sense of eternity, and each individual petal represents the interconnectivity and interdependence of the world.

Wreath emblem

Surprisingly, Shimamine says the shape was also designed to symbolise a wreath. "I once saw a scene in a foreign film where a wreath was laid on a grave and wondered about the meaning behind the gesture," she said in an interview (opens in new tab) with the Ginza Street Association. "When I looked it up, I discovered that wreaths carry a message of 'coming back again'. I took this concept and infused the hope that Japan will recover its vigor and courage through sports."

Spanish controversy

One of Tokyo's rivals in the bid process, Madrid, also commissioned its logo design on the basis of a national competition. This was won by 22-year-old Luis Peiret's design (below), in which the five arches of the Puerta de Alcala - a monument in Madrid's Independence Square - represent the five continents.

However, Peiret was not a fan of the final version of his design, which was developed by Spanish agency Tapsa (shown below):

Peiret was not the only detractor; the design was widely criticised within Spain for its alleged lack of legibility (the mocking hashtag was '#Madrid20020') and the "incorrect" accent on the 'i' of Madrid. The controversy took an even more bizarre when a company that makes gay dolls accused the agency of plagiarism (opens in new tab).

Turkish entry

In the case of Turkey's entry, five potential logos submitted by professional designers were published on Istanbul's website and the public were asked to choose their favourite. They selected this design; a painterly version of a tulip, a traditional symbol of the Turkish city.

Nestled between the petals are elements of Istanbul’s skyline centred around the Maiden’s Tower, with the orange and blue symbolising the European and Asian side, divided by the Bosporus. The idea was to draw attention to the fact that if Istanbul was chosen it would be the first time the Olympics had been held across two continents simultaneously.

Liked this? Read these!

What do you make of the Olympic bid logo designs? Let us know in the comments box below!

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

The Creative Bloq team is made up of a group of design fans, and has changed and evolved since Creative Bloq began back in 2012. The current website team consists of six full-time members of staff: Editor Kerrie Hughes, Deputy Editor Rosie Hilder, Deals Editor Beren Neale, Senior News Editor Daniel Piper, Digital Arts and Design Editor Ian Dean, and Staff Writer Amelia Bamsey, as well as a roster of freelancers from around the world. The 3D World and ImagineFX magazine teams also pitch in, ensuring that content from 3D World and ImagineFX is represented on Creative Bloq.