The design combines the distinctive, spiky image of the coronavirus cell with the blue-and-white Tokyo 2020 logo, and appeared on the front page of an in-house magazine published by the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ).
The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been postponed until next year because of the coronavirus, which has killed hundreds of thousands of people and halted sport worldwide.
FCCJ president Khaldon Azhari said Thursday the club had decided to withdraw the image and remove it from its website after advice that its legal defence against a potential copyright breach was “not strong”.
“More importantly, we are all in this coronavirus crisis together and clearly the cover offended some people in our host country Japan,” said Azhari, voicing “sincere regret”.
Tokyo 2020 chief executive Toshiro Muto hailed the move, telling reporters: “We believe their response was appropriate and this is what we were hoping for as an outcome.”
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Tokyo 2020’s chief spokesman Masa Takaya had blasted the emblem as “very disappointing”.
He said it was also an infringement of the copyright owned by Tokyo 2020, and revealed that top Olympic bosses had requested that the FCCJ remove the image.
“I also have to say this is insensitive to many people being affected by this damaging and painful situation,” said Takaya.
“It is especially insensitive to athletes who are willing to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games next year and working very hard every day for next year’s Games.”
Although the circulation of the magazine is tiny, this is not the first time Tokyo 2020 has become embroiled in a dispute over its logo.
It was forced to scrap its original emblem after claims of plagiarism from a Belgian designer, who said it was “virtually identical” to his logo for a theatre in Liege, eastern Belgium.
Tokyo 2020 organisers are facing the giant task of reorganising the Olympics for next year after IOC president Thomas Bach and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided to postpone the Games by a year.
The postponement, announced on March 24, coincided with the beginning of a spike in coronavirus cases in Tokyo and throughout Japan.
After several weeks under a state of emergency during which residents have been urged to stay at home, Tokyo is now seeing only a handful of new coronavirus cases per day.