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Tokyo Olympic And Paralympic Emblems Symbolize Diversity Becoming Harmony

By Todd Kortemeier | Feb. 19, 2019, 12:01 a.m. (ET)


The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they may be nearly 20 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.


The notion of the simple becoming complex is a common one to the Japanese aesthetic and is exemplified by the emblems of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.

Much like humble ingredients such as fish and rice become an exemplary meal in the hands of skilled sushi chefs, just three shapes were used to create two dramatically different emblems for the Games.

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Each emblem makes use of three solid blue rectangles of different sizes. And each emblem uses the same number of rectangles. Not a single curved line appears anywhere, yet the arrangement of the rectangles makes each emblem circular.

Both emblems were designed by artist Asao Tokolo. They recall a checkered pattern common to many countries, but first appeared in Japan during the Edo period of 1603-1867. The pattern became wildly popular after it appeared in the clothing of Kabuki theater actor Ichimatsu, and is known as “ichimatsu moyo.”

But the emblems are designed to be more than just a reference to the past. They are meant to symbolize how diversity of thought and population can come together in harmony. In this way, it echoes the Olympic symbol, five rings symbolizing five continents of athletes coming together to compete.

“These two emblems are made of the same number of shapes,” the Tokyo emblem’s official concept states. “They remind us that all people are equal. That regardless of ability or disability, we are united in our humanity.”

Todd Kortemeier is a sportswriter, editor and children’s book author from Minneapolis. He is a contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.