The History of Olympic Logos

On New Year’s Eve, the organizers of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, unveiled their official logo. After the debacle that was the unveiling of the one-eyed monsters of London Olympic mascots, I thought I saw the height of Olympic symbol ridiculousness. Some interpretations of this include a thong, two jockstraps, an ink blot test and three hostages tied together.

So just how ridiculous have past Olympic logos been? Let’s take a walk back through time as I examine the history of Olympic logos.

Sochi 2014
Seriously Russia? That’s the best you can do? This is actually the official logo of the upcoming Winter Olympics in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, Russia. Their official website it And that’s all there is to the logo. The “sochi” and the “2014” are supposed to be mirror images but only Mr. Magoo would see that. It’s not some ridiculous image for a logo but there’s no effort in this. It’s just text. Even three hostages tied together is a better logo than something I could do in Word without clicking WordArt.

London 2012
Apparently the London logo was designed to appeal to and engage the British youth in the upcoming Olympics. I’m kinda surprised they thought there’d be a worry about engaging the youth in the Olympic movement because everyone gets excited about them by the opening ceremonies regardless of your feelings about them in the run up to the Games. So, for the low price of £400,000, London got a pseudo-graffiti logo to appeal to British youth. They even used your classic bright pink and yellow spray paint colours. And the best part is that no one likes the logo. Makes sense because nothing says counter-culture than the Olympics.

Vancouver 2010
It took me a while to warm up to this logo. Part of it might be because Vancouver organizing committee and the Canadian Olympic Committee seemed to make the logo and mascots a celebration of purely Aboriginal culture. However, the inukshuk has permeated all parts of Canadian culture. Hell, even I’ve made the odd inukshuk with rocks at the beach or at rest stops. It’s a nice representation of Canadian culture and probably the best one on this list. (And let’s ignore the fact that they also gave the logo a name that means “friend” in an Aboriginal language.)

Beijing 2008
This logo actually has a name. It’s called “Dancing Beijing” and is a stylized drawing of the Chinese character 京 which, according to Wikipedia, is Chinese for capital. I know that Beijing is the capital of China but dancing is one of those things that I don’t associate with either Beijing or China. Remember that feng shui (or whatever that was) group that the Communist Party cracked down on because they were deemed a cult? That’s what I think of when I see “Dancing Beijing.” Sure this might seem like something very Chinese but the whole Olympics, including this logo, was about the hypocrisy of China putting on a pretty face for the world for two weeks.

Torino 2006
This is supposed to be a stylized representation of Turin’s Mole Antonelliana landmark drawn in ice crystals. The “ice crystal web” is supposed to “portray the web of new technologies and the Olympic spirit of community.” All I see is something that looks sorta like a mountain made out of fancy diamond shapes. That would be a reasonable explanation. But when you start adding in all these ridiculous “deeper meanings” to symbols like this, they lose all credibility. It’s like saying The Gap’s logo represents a global fashion community instead of cheap clothes made in a foreign country.

Athens 2004
The Athens Olympics held to the tried and true method of “keep it simple, stupid.” It’s an olive wreath done in Greek colours. Nice and simple. There are no hidden meanings. It’s just an homage to the ancient Olympics where winners were crowned with olive wreaths. I know I said earlier that the Vancouver logo was my favourite on the list. Take out my homerism (or hoserism, to use a more Canadian term) and you’ve got the best Summer Olympic logo here. Actually, considering that the alternatives are hostages, a dancing word and MC Hammer (below), that may not be as high praise as I wanted it to be.

Salt Lake City 2002
At first glance, it seems like a snowflake that’s been sort of stylized to resemble an Olympic torch. Makes sense for a Winter Olympic Games, right? Well, as we’ve learned by this point, it’s never that simple. It’s a combination of a snowflake and the sun rising over a mountain. Why couldn’t they have tried something as simple as a mountain with the yellow Olympic ring serving as the sun? It would be simple and elegant if done right. And that’s just the short explanation of the logo. But we have another case of telling people that this represents things that it clearly isn’t. If you want the contrived complete explanation, check Wikipedia. No sense in making your IQ drop with the official story.

Sydney 2000
It’s a running guy with a stylized drawing (I’m saying that a lot, aren’t I?) of the Sydney Opera House. Unlike the three most recent Olympic logos, this logo seems to be about the Olympics and the celebration of sport with a bit of host culture thrown in for good measure. I have to take marks off, though, for the MC Hammer-esque parachute pants the running dude is wearing. Also, marks off for not somehow including Fatso the Fat-Arsed Wombat in the logo. Wombats are cool.


One thought on “The History of Olympic Logos

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s