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Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo scrapped after plagiarism allegations

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By Tony Connelly | Sports Marketing Reporter

September 1, 2015 | 3 min read

Japan’s 2020 Olympic logo has been scrapped amid plagiarism accusations directed towards designer Kenjiro Sano.

The 2020 Olympic committee ditched the logo following accusations that Kenjiro Sano's design was heavily based on a piece of work by Belgian designer Olivier Debie, which was created for the Théâtre de Liège in Belgium in 2013.

Japanese officials originally rejected claims that Sano was guilty of plagiarism, arguing that the emphasis on the “T” bore no resemblance to Debie’s theatre design, which they pointed out was not a registered trademark.

However, the 2020 Olympics organising committee decided on the logo’s future at a crisis meeting on Tuesday attended by Japan's Olympics minister Toshiaki Endo and the head of the Japanese Olympic committee, Tsunekazu Takeda. It followed new accusations that Sano used a photograph from a website without permission when he presented his original logo.

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Sano previously maintained that his Tokyo 2020 design was inspired by the emblem used when the city first hosted the Summer Olympics in 1964. He maintained that he had never set eyes on the Théâtre de Liège design and said he was “extremely surprised to hear the remarks of the Belgian designer” adding that the claims were “completely groundless.”

It is not the first time Sano’s work for the 2020 Olympics has come under fire; his initial submission resembled a work by the late German typographer, Jan Tschichold.

His assertions were undermined by a string of previous plagiarism cases including his admission that some of the images he used on tote bags to promote a Japanese brewery incorporated the work of other designers however he blamed the reproductions on his assistants.

The logo is the latest embarrassment for the 202 Olympic hosts following criticisms directed at the design of game’s main stadium which has been likened to a bicycle helmet, a turtle and a toilet seat.

Debie had initiated legal action against the International Olympic Committee to block the use of the logo and the case is due to begin this month.

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