2020 Tokyo Olympics emblem withdrawal hits govts, sponsors

PHOTO: Japan News/ANN

The organising committee of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics is considering relaxing conditions for designers to take part in a competition for the selection of new emblems after emblems by art director Kenjiro Sano were abruptly withdrawn on Tuesday, it has been learned.

Sources revealed Wednesday that deliberations to relax conditions began amid mounting criticism of the closed-door selection process that led to the adoption of Sano's works.

For the initial selection process, designers participating in the competition had to have won multiple awards from among seven national and international contests the committee had designated. Sano, 43, was chosen by a group of experts behind closed doors from among 104 qualified designers from home and abroad.

To renew the process, the committee intends to invite ideas from a broader spectrum to secure transparency and to avoid a recurrence of plagiarism claims and other problems, although the actual process has yet to be decided.

The committee also decided to withhold the payment of ¥1 million (S$11,700) to Sano, which would have been the prize for winning the competition, according to sources.

Poster, banners scrapped

On Wednesday, local governments and sponsors were seen scrambling to take down posters or cancel production of related goods after Sano's emblems were withdrawn.

In Koto Ward, Tokyo, where swimming races, tennis matches and other events will be held in 2020, five posters and two banners bearing the cancelled emblems were taken down inside the ward office. The Tokyo metropolitan government is now in the process of canceling the posters, banners and other goods already on order, worth ¥46 million in total.

Megabank Mizuho Financial Group, Inc., a sponsor of the Games, instructed its more than 400 branch offices nationwide to take down the posters that have been on display since Aug. 3 by the end of the day Wednesday.

All Nippon Airways, another sponsor, deleted the emblems from their website. NEC Corp. and Asics Corp., also sponsors, replaced the emblems on their websites with the emblem of the Japanese Olympic Committee. The September edition of ANA's in-flight magazine, which carries the emblems, had already been issued on Tuesday and will not be recalled.

Tokio Marine & Nichido Fire Insurance Co. will stop airing a television commercial released in August that shows the emblems and will go back to its commercial used earlier.

At the arrival lobby of Haneda Airport's international terminal, four posters were still in place Wednesday morning. People coming and going were seen staring at or taking photos of the now defunct posters.

A company employee, 48, who had just returned from a business trip to Singapore, said: "After all the fuss, I suppose canceling the emblems was inevitable. I'll take photos of them, though, as a keepsake."

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at Wednesday's press conference that the organising committee of the Tokyo Games should take the cancellation of the emblems "seriously" and do their utmost to make the sporting event "a cause for joy and celebration."