by Gabrielle Pickard
1 November 2011. Cheshire, United Kingdom. Since the official logo for the London 2012 Olympics was launched in 2007 it has caused a string of controversy and been met with a barrage of criticism. Not only was the London 2012 Olympics organising committee forced to withdraw its animated promotional video of the logo because it triggered seizures in people with epilepsy, but, with its arguably ‘distasteful’ shades of blue, green, orange and pink, and jagged 1980s-resonant typeface that is based on the date 2012, a petition of more than 40,000 names quickly circulated seeking the extraction of the logo following its launch four years ago.
The controversial logo was designed by brand consultants Wolff Olins, at a fee of £400,000. So intense was the objection that, just hours after it was officially launched, the Internet was swamped with alternative designs as thousands of outraged surfers blatantly outshone Wolff Ollins’ feeble official logo, by posting emblems they had designed themselves.
Despite the onslaught of criticism, Sebastian Coe, the 2012 organising committee’s chairman is quick to defend the emblem as being ‘visionary’ of what the Games are striving to achieve. “It’s not a logo, it’s a brand that will take us forward for the next five years,” Lord Coe told the BBC. “It won’t be everybody’s taste immediately but it’s a brand that we genuinely believe can be a hard working brand which builds on pretty much everything we said in Singapore about reaching out and engaging young people, which is where our challenge is over the next five years,” continued the London Olympics Chairman in 2007.
Despite Sebastian Coe’s optimism about the Olympics’ ‘ill-received’ logo, five years later the emblem is more contested than ever.
In light of its highly unpopular start, one would imagine the London 2012 Olympics’ logo’s destiny would have considerably improved. On the contrary, however, things have gone from bad to worse, for the logo that, in the words of the Olympics Committee’s chairman, “will define the venues and act as a reminder to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world.”
Personally, I cannot see how a jagged, brightly coloured, graffiti-style logo that bears no significance to British culture or sport other than simply stating the words ‘London’ and ‘2012’ and rouses absolutely zero motivation and inspiration, could possibly be seen as a ‘spirit to inspire everyone’. Whilst Lord Coe is adamant the brand will appeal to ‘young people’, the International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge believes the brand is an “indication of the dynamism, modernity and inclusiveness with which London 2012 will leave its Olympic mark.”
In reality, however, the Olympic committee bosses could not be further from the truth. Taking to the streets of London, I asked three young people their views about the ostracised logo just ten months before the Olympic Games will start. Rebecca Jones, a 27-year-old primary school teacher living in Brixton in the south of London is disappointed by the logo. “It looks like it could have been designed by a four year old,” said Ms Jones. “I don’t find its simplicity inspiring at all but rather a bit embarrassing for London.”
Russ Watkins, a website designer in his early thirties was equally as dissatisfied with the ‘brand’. “If the Olympics Committee can’t even chose a decent logo for the Games than it doesn’t instil much faith in them. It could at least make some reference to London’s uniqueness and inimitable identity. This logo could be a design for anywhere in the world,” said the Londoner.
Whilst in east London, the official ‘home’ of the Olympics, the air of discontent about the logo is as prominent as ever. When shown a photograph of the London Olympics logo, 18-year-old Tyrone from Tower Hamlets laughed out loud and sneered, “Is that the best they could come up with?”
Asides a large proportion of the British general public, particularly it seems Londoners, showing a discontent at the ‘uninspiring’ and distasteful Olympics logo, contention about the design expands well beyond Great Britain. The latest nation to voice their abhorrence and disproval towards the 2012 logo is Iran. In February this year Iran threatened to boycott the Games in protest of the logo’s alleged use of the biblical term ‘Zion’ for Israel’s capital, Jerusalem. In a letter wrote to Jacques Rogge, the Iranians spoke of the Committee’s ‘negligence’ in promoting such ‘racism’. “There is no doubt that negligence of the issue from your side may affect the presence of some countries in the games, especially Iran which abides by commitment to the values and principles,” the letter read.
Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been reported to refer to it as a ‘racist’ logo, which, he believes, has questioned the accuracy of Holocaust accounts. Jumping straight to its defence yet again, was Sebastian Coe who asserts that the logo represents the figure 2012 and nothing more, before reminding critics that as the logo was launched in 2007, “We are surprised that this complaint has been made now.”
Having been the alleged cause of 22 epileptic seizures, having been accused of representing a swastika, sexual act and, most recently, hidden pro-Israeli propaganda, and sparking an almost consensual embarrassment amongst the British people, let’s just hope that next year’s Olympic Games in London don’t follow in the footsteps of its ill-fated logo.
Gabrielle Pickard is a freelance writer based in Cheshire, United Kingdom.