Jeers and Loathing Over a New Logo

By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, June 5, 2007

LONDON, June 4 -- Olympic organizers unveiled the official logo for London's 2012 Summer Games on Monday, and didn't get quite the reaction they were hoping for.

Before the sun set, an online petition calling on the organizers to "scrap and change the ridiculous logo" had attracted more than 12,000 electronic signatures. A BBC online vote showed that of nearly 11,000 votes cast, almost 85 percent trashed the design and less than 4 percent gave it a "gold medal."

"There's some truly hideous sights in the world, but the newly revealed London 2012 logo tops them all," wrote columnist Tom Lutz, introducing a blog on the topic on the Guardian Unlimited Web site, which attracted a piping hot hiss of derision from hundreds of contributors.

Lutz noted that the organizers say the new logo represents "the Olympic spirit and the ability of the Games to inspire people to take part." But, he said, "others would say that it represents the multicolored vomit sprayed across the capital's pavements at 3 a.m. on your average Sunday morning."

"It's pretty hideous," said Amit Shah, 28, an investment banker in London, reading a newspaper on his evening commute home. "Usually there's some kind of link between the city and the logo. But here they have completely missed it. Frankly, it looks like graffiti."

The logo's design, which cost more than $800,000 to produce, is a chunky, graffiti-style depiction of the number "20" stacked above the number "12," looking a bit like a jagged piece of popcorn, incorporating the Olympic rings and the word "London" in lowercase letters. It was displayed Monday in vivid blue, green, orange and pink versions, each with a bright yellow outline, which organizers said was meant to appeal especially to young people.

"It is a puerile mess, an artistic flop and a commercial scandal," Stephen Bayley, founder of London's Design Museum, told the Press Association. "It is feeble. It was a wonderful chance to do something magnificent, and it was a waste of resources."

Prime Minister Tony Blair led a chorus of government officials, including London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and former British Olympic athletes who enthusiastically praised the logo: "When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life," Blair said.

Sebastian Coe, the former British distance runner who heads the organizing committee, introduced the logo, designed by the London-based Wolff Olins firm, with soaring praise. "It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world," he said.

But on a BBC blog about the new logo, where the comments were almost unanimously negative, one youthful contributor, "tommyd1258," said he was anything but inspired. "It's boring and looks like it took a second for a 3 year old to do," he wrote. "It certainly doesn't appeal to children, I mean I'm 16 and dislike it, my brother is 10 and thinks it's plain." By mid-afternoon, the logo launch had sparked what the Evening Standard newspaper proclaimed in a large headline the "Olympics 2012 Logo Revolt."

Coe responded that the logo, which will be used to brand a vast array of Olympic products, was intended to be an exciting and innovative symbol of London that would "evolve."

"It's not a logo; it's a brand that will take us forward for the next five years," Coe told BBC radio. "It won't be to everybody's taste immediately, but it's a brand that we genuinely believe can be a hard-working brand."

Further, Coe, said, "We don't do bland. This is not a bland city, and we were not going to come out with a bland corporate logo that would just be left to appear on a polo shirt you do your gardening in in a few weeks. . . . We believe we have got something that will live, something that will help us as we approach the Games, something with an international feel and something that will help us with business." On the streets of London, Britons seemed skeptical.

"It's pretty awful," said Helen Barker, 29, a librarian. "It's trying to be young and trendy, but it's not quite hitting the mark. It's a bit of a mess and looks like it's been done in five minutes."

Anette Zimowski, 24, a student at the London School of Economics, said the logo reminded her of "the disco '80s."

"You can't even tell what it says," she said. "It doesn't say anything."

Emilie Courtan, 23, a French woman studying in Britain, tried to put a positive spin on the logo, seeing complexity where others saw simple disaster.

"It's good," she said, "because you have to look at it a long time to figure out what it means."

© 2007 The Washington Post Company