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News Navigator: How were the new Tokyo Olympic emblems chosen?

The official emblems for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and Paralympics have been announced. The Mainichi Shimbun answers common questions readers may have about the process through which the new emblems were chosen.

    Question: How was the selection process carried out this time?

    Answer: On Nov. 24 last year, the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Organizing Committee began accepting candidates for the emblems. The process for the previous emblem selection had been criticized as too exclusive, having only accepted ideas from award-winning designers, so this time the application requirements were relaxed. Any Japanese national or foreigner living in Japan aged 18 or over was eligible to apply, as were groups that included children as long as they had a representative who met the requirements.

    Furthermore, after receiving criticism that the selection criteria were too vague, the committee announced seven themes, such as "the power of sport," "Tokyo and Japan," "personal records, and trying one's best" that they would look for in the emblems.

    The application deadline was Dec. 7 last year, and 14,599 applications were submitted.

    Q: What was the problem with the old emblems?

    A: In July last year, the original choices for the emblems, created by art director Kenjiro Sano, were announced. They were based on the letter "T" for Tokyo, but many allegations were made by people using online image search systems that the emblems resembled other people's works. A Belgian designer, among others, sued, saying the emblems were plagiarized from a theater logo they had made. On Sept. 1 last year, the organizing committee returned the emblem selection process to the drawing board, saying they "did not have the public's understanding" for continuing forward with the selected emblems.

    Q: Will this selection process be all right?

    A: To avoid a repeat of last time, the committee publicly released the final four candidates for the emblems, the first time this has ever been done in Olympic history. One goal was to eliminate any of the four candidate pairs if they came under fire for possible plagiarism. The committee also spent around three months checking against trademarked logos both in Japan and overseas, and going through procedures to have the selected emblems trademarked. It also required the designers of the final four candidate emblem pairs to sign oaths that they were not violating trademark rights and to submit evidence of their design processes to prove they hadn't copied anyone.

    While the chance that the selected emblems will be sued for infringement of trademark rights is small, it is impossible to check every design in the world. Therefore, the possibility remains that a similar design will be found and controversy will arise again.

    Q: How will the winning emblems be used?

    A: They become the intellectual property of the Olympic organizing committee. As the symbols of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, they will be widely used, such as in decorations and in Olympic venue maps. Olympic sponsors are able to pay to gain exclusive rights to use the Olympic emblems on their products or in their advertisements. (Answers by Ryuichi Arai, Sports News Department)

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