As we switch into Olympic mode we find ourselves debating the merits of Olympic logo designs, questioning what they represented and recollecting the most memorable ones. What do you remember most about the Olympics? The events, stadia, or logos? Regardless, we decided to do a bit of research into past Olympic logos and give a brief exposition of how they evolved through the years and touch on any memorable events around them.
A classic logo, resembling the emblem of a tertiary institution. The 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris had a logo with a large voyage ship on it… strange. This was the year that the term Faster, Higher, Stronger was coined, as the motto for the games.
The Nazi Olympics. The logo was a single line emblem with a grand bell engraved with the eagle of the Third Reich. Hitler saw the games as an opportunity to promote his propaganda on racial supremacy. However, it was Jesse Owens, an African-American athlete, that would come out as the most successful athlete
After 12 years of terror, the Olympics returned, fittingly hosted by Berlin last and picked up by London. This logo was the first to highlight a city landmark and a sense of pride and patriotism; following a time of despair. This move will open the door to a myriad of different interpolations of the same notion.
Just like London, Helsinki took the position of highlighting their national pride by showing the Olympic stadium on the logo. This event also saw the largest amount of world records broken until the Bolt-Phelps onslaught in 2008.
Mexico City 1968:
This was a classic typographical logo. Simple and plain. No frills. The Olympic hoops are masterfully intertwined with the number 68 in a series of intersecting circles and lines that strategically converge and diverge to create a classic font type that is still identified as “classic sports” font today. The event featured Tommie Smith’s infamous Black Power Salute at the award ceremony.
This ’72 logo was heavily underpinned by modernist design philosophies. It’s simplicity of two contrasting colours creating a spiraling illusion is quite fascinating. The logo is stripped down in true German mid-century fashion, it abandons the colourful Olympic insignia and sits proud and unapologetic. The event was marred by the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists and is depicted in Steven Spielberg’s Munich.
Perhaps the most controversial of all the Olympic logos. When the Brezhnev led Soviet state unveiled the extremely communist Olympic logo, complete with five red circles, there was a mass outcry from Western countries. None more than the United states, who boycotted the entire event altogether.
There are two sides to this argument. On the one hand, it started the trend of distilling the form of athletic figures down to a few symbolic strokes. On the other, it’s just plain old boring. On the up side these were the games that saw the Dream Team take on the world.
In 2000, Sydney continued the trend of creating athletic figures out of the Olympic colours. Seems to be a bit more effort put into this one. The blue symbolized the sky and water, taking the shape of the Opera House and the red and yellow are a series of boomerangs. When you think of Sydney 2000, two words: Marion Jones… but let’s not go there.
This has to be one of the most spectacular of all Olympic events. With an opening ceremony carried out with the precision of the Gods and of course Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. The logo is very unique, containing Chinese calligraphy and characters that make up what appears to be another athlete in motion.
What’s interesting about this logo is that it apparently maps out the contours of the Sugerloaf Mountain in Rio. It’s quite futuristic, consisting of three samba dancers, connected in a mobius strip. We all look forward to see what drama unfolds in this year’s event.