Tokyo endured fresh embarrassment over its preparations for the 2020 Olympic Games on Tuesday when the organising committee said it would scrap the logos it unveiled only a few weeks ago.
Since the twin emblems for the Olympics and Paralympics were revealed on July 24, their creator, Kenjiro Sano, has been besieged with allegations that he copied the design from a theatre in the Belgian city of Liege.
In the face of Mr Sano’s repeated denials of plagiarism, Olivier Debie, the Belgian designer, filed a lawsuit against the International Olympic Committee demanding the emblem not be used.
The decision to scrap the logos, announced after an emergency meeting of the Tokyo Olympic organising committee, comes as Japan is struggling to select a new, cheaper design for the national stadium after those plans were also ordered back to the drawing board by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister.
The reduced budget for the new stadium, which was announced last week, set a ceiling on construction costs of Y155bn ($1.3bn) — Y100bn lower than the previous plan, which was based on a design by the Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid.
At a press conference on Tuesday evening, Toshiro Muto, chief executive of Tokyo 2020, said that while members of the committee understood Mr Sano’s design was not a copy of the Belgian logo, “the question is whether ordinary people can understand and be convinced”.
Mr Muto added that Mr Sano feared his work was now having a negative effect on the Olympics and had asked for his logo to be dropped. “To solve the situation, we think that we should respect his wishes,” said Mr Muto.
Ahead of the emergency meeting over the logo issue, Yoichi Masuzoe, the Tokyo governor, told Japanese reporters that he “felt betrayed” by Mr Sano and the process that had approved the designs.
Tokyo metropolitan government staff were encouraged last month to reprint thousands of their business cards with the now defunct Olympic logos. Japanese media reported that Y46m worth of flags and posters bearing the logo had been ordered.
Mr Sano’s studio has also faced questions over other high-profile work. Designs for a promotion by the Japanese drinks maker Suntory were withdrawn after Mr Sano’s company acknowledged that “issues regarding copyright” had emerged on the designs of promotional gifts.
A zoo in the Japanese city of Nagoya recently demanded an investigation into a logo Sano’s studio sold it in 2013, but which many judge to bear distinct similarities to the emblem of a museum in Costa Rica.
The furore over the stadium and the logos has exposed some of the tensions between the organising committee and the governor of Tokyo as the country enters the five-year countdown to the games themselves. The Tokyo metropolitan government has expressed irritation over its lack of influence on decisions taken by the organising committee and a lack of transparency.
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