AROUND THE WORLD AND BACK: 64 Years of Olympic Logos, From London to London

As hot pink and yellow certainly don’t scream “Olympics,” nor do they particularly represent England, it’s no surprise that bloggers have filled cyberspace with criticism for the 2012 London Olympics logo. Looking back, the 1948 logo is certainly more traditional, with the famous five rings, the iconic English monument of Big Ben, and a simple black and white color scheme, while the newest logo is bright, sharp, and unique. To understand how a similar purpose can result in two significantly different designs, let’s look back over the past 64 years of Olympic logo evolution.

London, England 1948—This traditional, black and white design continues with the previously established standard of incorporating the Olympic rings in the logo.

Helsinki, Finland 1952—This bright blue logo stands as the beginning of a shift to more colorful logos, which, in the future, would base their color scheme on the Olympic ring’s spectrum. Like the previous summer games, this logo features an architectural monument to highlight the games’ location.

Melbourne, Australia 1956*—This logo serves as an early example of designs that incorporate the Olympic torch. The trend would be continued in future logos, such as for the Atlanta 1998 games.

*Equestrian events took place in Stockholm, Sweden.

Rome, Italy 1960—This logo sticks to a simple color palate of black and white to emulate the strength, history, and tradition associated with the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus.

Tokyo, Japan 1964—Starkly unique and throwing convention out the window, this Tokyo logo implements simplicity and sophistication to marry the games with Japan’s identity as a country.

Mexico, 1968—This logo utilizes typography to emphasize the games’ location above any other element; the unconventional choice arguably acts as a transition from the previous colorful cartoon-esque designs to the ultra modern Munich design to come four years later.

Munich, Germany 1972—This logo is strikingly different: from design to color scheme, the hypnotic spiral shatters previous Olympic logo stereotypes.

Montreal, Canada 1976—Despite an African boycott, these Olympics were known as the games when Nadia Comaneci (Romania) earned seven 10.0s in women’s gymnastics under this simple red logo.

Moscow, Russia 1980—Calling on the red from previous Montreal games, the Moscow logo puts a twist on the iconic flaming torch imagery.

Los Angeles, California 1984—This logo captures both American patriotism and the athletic movement associated with the games. This movement imagery would continue in the Seoul games’ logo.

Seoul, South Korea 1988—Seeming to foreshadow the coming change (these games preceded the abolition of the South African apartheid and the fall of the Berlin wall), swirling lines and gradation make forward motion the focus of this logo.

Barcelona, Spain 1992—In the year of the US basketball’s “Dream Team,” Barcelona’s logo emphasized the individual athlete, a trend that would  resurface in Beijing and Sydney. The color palate holds true to the Olympic rings and plays on tradition.

Atlanta, Georgia USA 1996—The Atlanta logo breaks from the traditional Olympics color palate in favor of brighter hues. Despite this change, it maintains the traditional iconography of the torch.

Sydney, Australia 2000—Following tradition, this logo encompasses the iconic Olympic ring colors, focuses on the athlete, and achieves a sense of movement.

Athens, Greece 2004—This logo does an excellent job of utilizing simplicity to represent the games’ location and the rich tradition and history it holds.

Beijing, China 2008—The logo seems to foreshadow Usain Bolt of Jamaica breaking two world records as he sprints to victory: focus is on the athlete, and a monochromic color scheme ensures that the viewer is not distracted from this point.

London, England 2012—The London logo’s hard lines and sharp corners contrast previous logos that capture movement and athleticism through swirling curves. 2012 instead focuses on abstract design and the year of the games.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 2016—Looking ahead to the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro, it appears that the logo adheres to established Olympic logo tradition, upholding a traditional color scheme, imagery of movement, and an athlete focus.

After an analysis of previous and future logos, London stands as a striking anomaly, not a pioneer of a lasting change. This being said, the 2012 logo indeed marks the first time that the Olympic and Paralympic games share a visual icon; despite controversial design decisions, this emblem will forever stand as a visual representation of increasing acceptance and respect for the physically disabled, and this is certainly a milestone worth celebrating.

*Thanks for voting! The results are in, and here’s how the competition played out:

GOLD Rio 2016

SILVER Mexico 1968

BRONZE Munich 1972


Valerie Kuznik is a Strategist at Blue Marlin New York

  1. Enter Brandman said:

    Mexico ’68 is the winner for me – that retro style would definately work today and I want to see the games’ location stand out as it should for such an iconic and nation-defining event.

  2. Thais said:

    I quite like the simplicity and the almost naive feel from the Athens logo.

  3. LavaPaws said:

    My votes for 1964 Tokyo and 1972 Munich. The simplicity and boldness of deep red sun is powerful and immediately transports you to the East – There’s no rings, but this sphere is reminds you of a gold metal. Munich’s hypnotic black and white spiral is just edgy and too cool – who says the Olympics logo needs to be about the rings and medals?

  4. Salvatore Verazzo said:

    Tokyo and Munich. Timeless.

  5. Tim said:

    Not a fan of 2012 at all… To be honest, it looks like a middle school art project gone wrong.

    Montreal 1976 looks like someone flipping the bird to me…

    RIO 2016 is my favorite from the list.

  6. Simon said:

    Got to be Mexico ’68 logo for me, an absolute classic with a great idea at it heart – kudos to Lance Wyman.

  7. Big Fish! said:

    Sydney 2000 creatively fuses the essence of competition with iconic cultural recognition. Naive, vivid art from Ken Done or indigenous tribesmen? Captures the spirit of Australia, a natural winner!

  8. Belinda Tainsh said:

    One thing I would say about the London 2012 marque is that it’s unique and as a result of all the controversy, very memorable. I have to agree that the Mexico 68 and Munich 72 are my favourite from a design perspective. Very modern, simple and timeless. Finally, one that is also noteworthy – the LA 1984 marque. There’s no question as to which country this is from. Let’s face it though it’s a pretty easy win.

  9. Neal Mitchell said:

    Love this post. It all seems to make sense when looking at it chronologically. Love that 2016 logo, dimension, gradients and all. It suits the time and place.

  10. simon thomas said:

    Love the randomness of the Rome one! Just stands out so much compared to the others, it has a certain freshness about it compared to the late 90s ones! Atlanta and Sydney look hideous and dated now don,t they, funny at the time i thought they were cool.
    Our 2012 logo stands out really well compared to others, i have grown to like it.

  11. Marshall said:

    Rio embraces a positivity, dynamism and vibrancy that shouts promise for a brilliant celebration in 4 years. Let’s hope London fulfils this promise in a couple of days.

  12. Evgueni said:

    Just a small correction: the 1980′ Moscow is not a “twist” of the Olympic Torch but is a representation of the Moscow State Universitiy (Lomonosov University). So it’s pretty much in line with the 48′ London & 52′ Helsinki logos, showing a symbolic architectural monument of the city.

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