Tokyo has the best Olympics design in decades

The Olympic torch, designed by Tokujin Yoshioka, is just the latest thoughtful design for the 2020 Games.

Every summer Olympics, athletes carry the Olympic torch from Athens to the host city, where the torch ignites the Olympic cauldron during the opening ceremony. Now, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have unveiled the design of the new torch, and it’s a lovely ode to Japanese tradition, technology, and sustainability.


Tokujin Yoshioka [Photo: courtesy Tokyo 2020]
Thirty percent of the torch, by the prominent Japanese designer Tokujin Yoshioka, is composed of aluminum construction waste recovered from temporary housing built after the devastating 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. It was made using aluminum extrusion technology, which is also used to manufacture Japanese bullet trains.

The torch’s form is equally thoughtful. It takes the shape of a cherry blossom, perhaps the most famous flower in Japan. Elegant metal petals sweep up from the torch’s mast to culminate in a flower, out of which the flames will erupt.

“The design began after I drew cherry blossom emblems with children in [a] recovering area,” Yoshioka tells Fast Company via email. “The cherry blossoms they drew were all vibrant, as if [they] symbolize a scene where people are overcoming and restarting from the disaster. I aimed to convey their power to the world through my design.”

[Images: courtesy Tokyo 2020]

To date, the design for the Tokyo Olympics is better than anything we’ve seen in previous years. From its medals, which are made of 47 tons of recycled electronics, to its beautifully retro pictograms, Japan is showing the world that it takes design seriously.

[Photo: courtesy Tokyo 2020]
Which makes Yoshioka a perfect choice for the Olympic torch. Yoshioka is one of Japan’s most influential designers, a “poet of materials,” who has made furniture look like clouds and phones resemble holograms. A Fast Company Most Creative Person in 2010, he has worked for companies like BMW, Swarovski, and Shiseido. He joins other prestigious designers in creating the Olympic torch for his country, including Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, who designed the torch for the 2012 Olympics in London.

“What I designed is not merely the form of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch, but the form of flame itself,” Yoshioka says. “The five flames surrounded by the petals become one Olympic flame to give hope to all the people in the world to live in peace.”

About the author

Katharine Schwab is the deputy editor of Fast Company's technology section. Email her at and follow her on Twitter @kschwabable


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