A satirical mock-up depicting the Tokyo Games logo as the novel coronavirus has been pulled from online after Olympic organizers branded it “insensitive” and said that it infringed copyright.
The design combines the distinctive, spiky image of the coronavirus cell with the blue-and-white Tokyo Games logo. It appeared on the cover of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan’s magazine.
The Tokyo Games have been postponed until next year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left hundreds of thousands of people dead and halted sport worldwide.
Club president Khaldon Azhari yesterday said that the club had decided to withdraw the image and remove it from its Web site after receiving advice that its legal defense against a potential copyright breach was “not strong.”
“More importantly, we are all in this coronavirus crisis together and clearly the cover offended some people in our host country, Japan,” Azhari said, voicing “sincere regret.”
Tokyo Games chief executive Toshiro Muto hailed the move, telling reporters: “We believe their response was appropriate and this is what we were hoping for as an outcome.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Tokyo Games chief spokesman Masa Takaya had blasted the emblem as “very disappointing.”
It was also an infringement of the copyright owned by the organizing committee, he said, revealing that top Olympic bosses had requested that the club remove the image.
“I also have to say this is insensitive to many people being affected by this damaging and painful situation,” Takaya said.
“It is especially insensitive to athletes who are willing to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games next year and working very hard every day for next year’s Games,” he added.
Although the circulation of the magazine is tiny, this is not the first time that the Tokyo Games has become embroiled in a dispute over its logo.
It was forced to scrap its original emblem after claims of plagiarism from a Belgian designer, who said that it was “virtually identical” to his logo for a theater in Liege, Belgium.
Tokyo Games organizers are facing the giant task of reorganizing the Olympics for next year after International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to postpone the event by a year.
The postponement, announced on March 24, coincided with the beginning of a spike in coronavirus cases in Tokyo and throughout Japan.
After several weeks under a state of emergency in which residents have been urged to stay at home, Tokyo is now seeing only a handful of new cases each day.
In related news, Bach told the BBC that the Tokyo Games would have to be scrapped if the event cannot be held next year due to the pandemic.
Abe has said that the event cannot take place next year unless the coronavirus is contained and Bach said that he understood his position.
“Quite frankly, I have some understanding for this, because you can’t forever employ 3,000 or 5,000 people in an organizing committee,” Bach said. “You can’t every year change the entire sports schedule worldwide of all the major federations. You can’t have the athletes being in uncertainty.”
The IOC is committed to holding the Games next year, although it has to be prepared for various scenarios including quarantining athletes, he said.
“What could this mean for the life in an Olympic Village?” Bach said.
“All these different scenarios are under consideration and this is why I’m saying it’s a mammoth task, because there are so many different options that it’s not easy to address them [now],” he said.
“When we have a clear view on how the world will look on July 23, 2021, then [we will] take the appropriate decisions,” he added.
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