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Back before Tokyo was selected as the host of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, the organizing committee started putting up posters around the capital touting its status as a candidate city. The logo was a circle of cherry blossoms using four of the five colors of the Olympic rings (with purple substituting for black).

You could say it was a clichéd choice, but on the other hand, it’d be hard to come up with a symbol more instantly associated with Japan than the sakura. Mt. Fuji, maybe, but it isn’t in Tokyo, and a piece of sushi would look more like a promotion for a restaurant than a sporting competition.

But perhaps because the cherry blossoms bloom in spring and Tokyo is hosting the Summer Games, the sakura ring isn’t going to be used for the actual 2020 Olympics and Paralympics themselves. Instead, Japan’s Olympic Committee recently came up with two new logos. In the eyes of some people in Japan, however, even though the designs embody a deep message, they’re lacking in aesthetic sense.

At first glance, it’s sort of hard to tell what the Olympic logo is trying to be. Why is there a gigantic “I” in the middle of a design for an event for which creating connections with other cultures is a key goal? Or is that supposed to be a lowercase “r,” with a two-tone red/black color scheme?

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Actually, it’s a capital “T,” as in “Tokyo…”

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…and also as in “team,” and “tomorrow,” which are being touted as themes for the Games in this video introducing the design.

The red circle is the same one that appears on the Japanese flag, representing the sun. The gold and silver accents are seemingly references for the Olympic medals of the same color (apparently there’s no room for third place in this logo).

But why black? Because that’s the shade you get after mixing every color together, the Olympic Committee says on its website.

There’s a similarly admirable sentiment behind the Paralympics logo.

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Although it uses the same lines, the Paralympics’ symbol’s different colors result in a pair of black lines. Rotate them 90 degrees, and you get…

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…an equal symbol, asserting the fundamental equality of all people.

Still, reactions have been mixed online in Japan.

“I can’t tell what they’re supposed to be!”
“I honestly like them.”
“In a word, they’re uncool.”
“I think they look good, because they’re sort of like a J-League soccer logo.”
“Doesn’t need the lame-looking part from the Japanese flag.”
“Should have gone with the one with the flowers.”
“All I’m seeing is the Zaku [one-eyed robot from Mobile Suit Gundam].”

Several commenters also expressed displeasure with how the red mark reminds them of the pickled plum in a cheap bento or rice ball, which is a common complaint among citizens of Japan regarding their country’s flag, as well.

▼ It’s still a less prominent motif than it was in 1964, however.

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We doubt anyone would argue against either of the design’s core philosophes, but from a purely visual standpoint, it looks like a lot of people were hoping for something that was meaningful while also being more overtly pleasing to the eye. Still, given some of the other things the Japanese Olympic Committee has to deal with right now, maybe logo design isn’t its top priority.

Source: Jin
Top image: The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (1, 2) (edited by RocketNews24)
Insert images: The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, YouTube/TOKYO Organising Committee, Wikipedia/Magnus Manske (edited by RocketNews24)