Branding the Olympics: How Will 2016 Look?

An examination of how Olympic logos evolved during the period between a city’s initial bid for the Summer or Winter games and the final version the public got to see.

Amid the fanfare and fluster of the Olympic process it’s easy to forget the effort that went into branding each one. Over at the Idsgn blog they’ve done the job for us and taken a look at a whole bunch of different Olympic logos.


Specifically, Idsgn’s examined how the logos evolved between the period between a city’s initial bid for the Summer or Winter Olympics and the final version the public got to see. While it’s hard to examine the differences for specific meaning (did Beijing think its more traditional final emblem would appeal more to how the world sees the nation?) it’s interesting to try to imagine the political, design and financial forces that pushed and pulled at each nation’s organizing committee that caused the logos to change–we’re an incredibly image-conscious world, remember.

That said, Greece, Canada and China all refined their designs towards a more traditional emblem–Greece’s perhaps tapping the most original source, with its olive wreath logo for Athens 2004 being right at the heart of the original ancient Olympics.

Vancouver 2010

Beijing 2008

Athens 2004

Torino’s 2006 Winter Olympics emblem went the other way, from partly abstract to even more abstract, with a more high-tech angle thanks to the distorted star network effect.

Torino 2006

And London’s 2012 emblem abandoned all pretense at history, moving from a terribly traditional (shall we say acutely British?) font-based design into what could fairly be labeled as an optical explosion–designed by Wolf Olins. Do the British Olympic Committee feel the pink and yellow starkness of the design better represents UK culture? Or are we misunderstanding, and London’s team are embracing tradition–but have shunned the options of a bowler hat and fish’n’chips for a logo that’s as eccentric as the stereotypical Brit is imagined to be abroad?

London 2012

All of this, of course, makes one wonder what will happen to the logos for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and the winner from the candidate cities for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The one that stands out with most room for movement is Tokyo’s, with its largely meaningless swirl in Olympic colors–reminiscent of London’s original one. And then there’s the odd blandness of Chicago’s logo–what’s with the star, guys? It’s kinda snowflake-like, and this isn’t the Winter Olympics?

Olympics Logos

[via Isdgn]


About the author

I'm covering the science/tech/generally-exciting-and-innovative beat for Fast Company. Follow me on Twitter, or Google+ and you'll hear tons of interesting stuff, I promise. I've also got a PhD, and worked in such roles as professional scientist and theater technician...thankfully avoiding jobs like bodyguard and chicken shed-cleaner (bonus points if you get that reference!)