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A spiky issue

Tokyo 2020 parody logo depicting COVID-19 virus slammed by Games organisers

A parody logo depicting the emblem of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games as a “coronavirus” received backlash from the Games’ organising committee, who deemed it “insensitive” and an infringement of copyright laws.

The design was first published on the front cover of the April edition of Number 1 Shimbun, the in-house magazine of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ). It was created by the magazine’s art director, British designer Andrew Pothecary.

Tokyo 2020 Games emblem depicted as the coronavirus on the cover of Japan's Number 1 Shimbun
The April edition of Japan’s Number 1 Shimbun magazine features the twisted logo on its front cover

“It is very disappointing to see the emblem being distorted and deliberately associated with the coronavirus, which has caused enormous economic damage, social disruption and loss of human life,” said Tokyo 2020 spokesman Masa Takaya in an online news conference.

“The design is also clearly using the design of the Olympic emblem. We therefore consider it an infringement on our legally secured copyright to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic emblem.

“This is also insensitive to the many people affected worldwide by this damaging and painful situation. It is especially insensitive to the athletes around the world working to compete in the Games.”

Asao Tokolo, designer of the Tokyo 2020 emblems
The original emblems for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, presented by their designer, Asao Tokolo (Source)

The FCCJ later acquiesced by taking down the image from its website, with the club’s President Khaldon Azhari citing its weak legal defence against copyright infringement. He added that the move would not limit the club’s freedom of expression, nor its ability to use parody or satire in the future. He also expressed “sincere regret to anyone who may have been offended on all sides of this issue.”

The COVID-19 outbreak has been responsible for over 345,000 deaths worldwide as of writing. The impact is such that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games have become the first Games in history to be postponed. Over the years, the international event has weathered politically charged boycotts and terrorist attacks, and only been cancelled during the World Wars (in 1916, then in 1940 and 1944).