Tokyo 2016 Olympic Bid Logo

Tokyo 2016 Olympic Bid Logo
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Thoughts on the Tokyo 2016 Olympic and Paralympics Bid Committee’s Logo
Kenji Ekuan

At the reception following the unveiling of the Tokyo 2016 Bid Committee’s logo, Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara inquired about the logo’s basic message. I quickly responded, “Musubu” (uniting or tying together) and was relieved when he nodded and seemed pleased. After all, as leader of the Bid Committee the Governor would play a key role in the campaign – conducted with the logo as its symbol – to win the hearts of the IOC Members who will vote to select the 2016 host city in October 2009. Tokyo faces stiff competition from a number of rivals with distinct personalities: Chicago in the USA, Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro and Madrid, Spain. Tokyo must do more than describe its safety, facilities and tourist appeal and the most important thing is to find an effective way to convey Tokyo’s charm.

The logo we designed, having been chosen from among many submissions, was officially unveiled in the summer of 2007. It was inspired by mizuhiki, paper twine tied in elaborate knots to express congratulations or condolences when decorating gifts, and a symbol of ancient Japanese culture. Mizuhiki is made in endless variations. A combination of red and white marks joyous occasions like weddings and births, while a combination of black and white expresses grief. Tradition can be refreshingly simple and need be more complex than this.

Tracing the roots of mizuhiki carries us back to the year 607 when Ono no Imoko, a Japanese diplomatic envoy to China, returned to Japan with gifts from the Sui Emperor that were bound with red and white hemp twine. In this way, mizuhiki was accepted into Japan 1400 years ago. In Japan koyori – twisted strips of handmade paper starched for greater strength – came to be used instead of hemp. Koyori does not break easily even when pulled forcefully, and is still used today for binding books, tying sumo wrestlers’ topknots and various other purposes. In tying together a varied group of objects as one, the original mizuhiki demonstrated a profound sense of uniting (musubu). The mizuhiki we use in our everyday lives is meaningless without this aspect of combining and connecting.

What interests me most is the act of uniting (musubu). Mizuhiki is red and white because at the birth of the universe the sun was red and shadow white, and together they made up all there was on the face of the earth. Then came a flash of lightning that merged plus and minus, generating power. At a primal level, earth’s creation began in this union of plus and minus. Our ancestors surely understand this instinctively. Reality is a phenomenon.

In the Japanese creation myth described in Records of Ancient Matters, the marriage of Izanagi and Izanami, the first deities, is known as kami-musubi (holy union). The couple was blessed with many children – their union of plus and minus was a productive one. A nation prospers through the union of man and woman and the merging of the heterogeneous in fertile creation. Creation is a merging of difference that begets even greater heterogeneity. This is what musubu means. The god of musubi was the god of union.

The Olympic symbol is extremely well made, with a crisp clarity and an air of openness. Rather than uniting the five continents it links them powerfully together. During his life Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, must have dreamed of seeing the peoples of the world join hands in friendship. And indeed this aspect of the Olympic spirit is timeless. But the earth is undergoing dramatic change. The fleeting post-Second World War peace gave way to an era of constant conflict around the world. Peace on earth seems too much to hope for. On a planet whose environment is deteriorating, we must start by setting conflict aside. It is important to come together unconditionally. It is important not to fight. Even children understand this yet somehow this truth becomes harder to see as we grow older.

The mizuhiki motif in the musubi logo symbolizes our dream of uniting the peoples of the world through the Tokyo 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games. We must not only end conflict and fighting but also reassess the notion of musubi and return to the essence of creation. The logo expresses how important it is for the peoples of the world to be united in creating something new. It expresses the hope of the world today, a message from the Japanese people, from the people of Tokyo, and from Tokyo 2016.

Baron de Coubertin’s Olympic symbol is immortal. And if the Games are to take place once every four years in a city somewhere in the world, the spirit of the people in that city is critical. The spirit of mizuhiki expresses the heartfelt desire of the Japanese people to welcome the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016.

Kenji Ekuan, Chairperson, GK Design Group
Thoughts on the Tokyo 2016 Olympic and Paralympics Bid Committee’s Logo
Kenji Ekuan