For about four weeks this year, the eyes of the world were focused on Tokyo, Japan for the 2020* Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games. The internationally loved spectacle is the pinnacle of sport and once every four years (two if you include the Winter Olympics) we watch, binge, laugh and cry at the sports and athletes we love but also find ourselves obsessing over some sports we’ve never seen or even heard of before (who knew that synchronised swimming could be so exciting?)
*Originally scheduled to take place in 2020, but actually happened in 2021. You can probably guess why…
The appeal of the Olympics is obvious though; you’re watching the best of the best battle it against the rest with super-human strength and endurance whether that’s over 50 metres in the pool, at 13.5 metres a second on the track or covering 42,195 metres in 2 hours, one minute and 39 seconds. But, as important as the sport obviously is, it’s not just about that which makes the Olympics so appealing; but also the city in which the Games take place (Summer & Winter Games). Every two years we’re given a chance to experience the host city, its natural and manufactured landscapes, its architecture, its people and the local culture.
These kinds of things are often the defining factors that designers look to when branding each of the Games, an often overlooked but crucial aspect each time. It’s what people see first and what is left imprinted in their memories long after the Games are over. Perhaps a skewed perspective from myself as a designer, but I cannot list a single athlete* from the 1968 Games in Mexico City but the logo is unmistakable and unforgettable, even after 53 years.
*For their athletic performances, not political statements, i.e. Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ Black Power salute.