024 In order to prevent a negative legacy

Suddenly I received many alerts with the heading “breaking news” and learned about the article posted on “netgeek” on the web. Ever since the article entitled “[Breaking News] Shocking exposé by Keiko Hirano, judge on the Olympic emblem selection committee, tells all about suspicion of collusion between Kenjiro Sano and major players” came out, numerous articles headed with the same title have spread and diffused on the internet with alarming speed. Watching the words “breaking news”, “suspicion of collusion” and “shocking exposé” getting copied and pasted, proliferating with a life of its own, I was struck by the feelings of hate and malevolence pouring out from the words “shocking exposé” that was used in the twisted article—an article that apparently had not understood the true meaning behind my blog. It was unbearable. I almost lost my will to continue writing. I am grateful for the editors who are wanting to promote my blog so that it could reach out to a wider audience, but I am not comfortable with its anything-goes methodology. Once you slip out of the holy ground guarded by the critical spirit, the lively spirit of criticism which is at the roots of journalism, I feel that words can easily turn into weapons that induce negative feelings including hate. Whether it is ill thoughts that get verbalized, or words that induce malevolence, these ill thoughts and hatred, once they become verbalized, become powerful weapons that hurt and damage people’s minds and spirits. They erode their hearts.

My blog is not aimed at making personal attacks. My blog does not aim at criticizing the Organizing Committee or major ad agencies. As one of the persons who was close to the heart of the problem that took place, I feel a duty towards the people; I feel the need to lay out the facts and relate what really happened. I was a judge on the selection committee, yet there are too many things that I didn’t know or still don’t understand. It is taking a longer time than I expected to sift through the events and study the problem itself. But I have come to feel that this problem was not a random event, a happenstance, but a problem with deeper roots. It was a disaster that was waiting to happen. As a member of the designing community I feel I cannot overlook this situation. Thus I am continuing my examination of events. I am carefully looking at the facts and building my case. As for the organizing committee, my wish is that the same mistake would never be repeated. I truly hope that preparations leading up to Tokyo’s hosting of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics will go well, including the selection of the Olympic emblem, which is now on-going. In order to ensure the success of the Games, I hoped that by recording my experience and adding my own analysis as to the cause of the problem from a designer’s viewpoint, I would be able to be of some assistance. I hoped that the organizing committee would regard the assessment of events provided in my blog as reference material for risk management purposes. Rather than lamenting and giving up on the hopelessness of the situation, I am taking action as a way to think about the future. I am pinning my hopes on what happens hereafter.

Then why would anyone go ahead and take the writing from my blog, without my permission, add embellishments using correlation diagrams with images pulled from a television program and add comments that totally disregard human rights? Allow me to digress. My staff, looking at the images plucked from the television program “every” that is now floating around the internet shed tears, sympathizing with me: “Why do you have to be subjected to this. It is so terrible.” I am truly dismayed that I have caused such grief to my precious staff and colleagues. When I first saw the image, I felt maybe the persons who produced the television program innocently created the visual, without giving it much thought; but if they could spare a moment to sense the pain felt by us who were exploited as material in creating this ludicrous image, I hope they could do better from her on, and improve their ways of handling expression. Once an image is created with a certain objective the image can wield immense power. I had never felt this terrified before. I am reflecting on the pain I am experiencing so that I can put it to use in my future activities of creation and expression.

As for the correlation diagram, it is something that was created by an unknown person, source unknown. Whereas I am writing my blog, using my name, taking full responsibility for my words. By composing an article, mixing up information derived from unnamed sources with writings from an author, and adding head shots, you end up creating a quasi-reliable article despite its distorted contents. I think it invites misunderstanding. I will not give my consent to reprint my postings. But I want to make a request to the editor of this media that has a wide and lasting effect—if you wanted to write an article about my blog, why not dig deeper into my intentions? And then why not add some reliable reference material that has been vetted? Every result has a cause. The cause of this problem on hand is a multilayered structure that involves numerous persons. In my analysis, it is impossible to simply point to a single person, naming him as the cause of the whole issue in its entirety. I believed it was not right for all criticism to be aimed at a single person. That is why I am continuing this thought process via my blog. If you must use my blog and my head shot, I would like you to change your editing policies: to remove headings that include names and remove the correlation diagram, cruel television images from the article. If that is too difficult I have another proposition. Why not follow the great “funassyi” the monumental star of local mascot characters known as “yuru-kyara” here in Japan. Would it be possible to add the words “this is an unofficial article that has not been authorized by Keiko Hirano”? That is the least you can do.

I wrote that “the aim of my blog is not to make personal attacks”. Then why do I allude to the names of the two gentlemen in my blog, Mr. Takuma Takasaki, formerly of the Organizing Committee and the designer Mr. Kazumasa Nagai? I will give my reasons. Mr. Takasaki served as the creative director for the organizing committee; his role was the “creative director” tasked with the responsibilities related to all creative elements of the Olympic Games. Mr. Nagai represented the judges on the selection panel. He was at the center of creating the competition for developing an emblem for the Olympic Games and had great authority and responsibility. There is no question that the decisions made by the two people, and their actions brought about the problem we now face. Thus I decided I had no option but to give their names. Mr. Takasaki is not a freelancer. He belongs to an organization; in his capacity as an employee of the organizing committee he was given a title which came with responsibilities and certain authority. Generally speaking, the persons from the organizing committee who appointed Mr. Takasaki and allowed him such authority and responsibilities should be named; the persons in charge from his ad agency should be named, to assume ultimate responsibility. The graveness of the issue and outcome calls for such measures. If the measures are not implanted it just shows that the organization per se, is not functioning as a proper organization.

I think there is a reason for this stance of no one taking responsibility. The Olympic Games is a major sports event of a global scale which involves various institutions, the government, corporate sponsors—covering a wide range of public and private entities. In order to work within such a complicated structure, I imagine there are many risk management strategies in place to avoid persecution of people in various branches and areas. I feel greater priority is given to avoiding setting off an investigation mission for responsibility. However, we live in a modern world where every piece of information is made visible; it is extremely difficult to control and manage information. To claim that circumstances come first, is not applicable—it is an outmoded way of thinking that won’t fly; which was actually proved by this scandal that resulted in the scrapping of the emblem.

As the final chapter of this emblem issue an investigation by third-party advisors took place; which only assessed partial problem areas and did not look into the essence of the issue and did not keep records of the process. Inevitably, it invited attacks on specific persons. Relying on such unfair investigation reports will not assuage the doubt and anger of the Japanese people; there is a lingering possibility that specific persons will continue to be the target of hatred regarding the Olympic issue. No doubt the fact that  the art director who created the first place design plan has not come forward with an explanation—that is further aggravating the circumstances. However hard the outsiders seek an explanation, if the person in question is deemed to keep his silence, there is only one course of action that can be taken by the organizing committee. The organizing committee is in a position to take full responsibility. Therefore it must conduct a full invesigation related to the said art director; and if it uncovers a problem, it should be written into the investigation report. If the responsible organ uncovers and records the cause of the problem—that will lead to a resolution, and people will be satisfied. In the end, this course of action will end up saving the very persons who were at the crux of the matter and continue to keep mum.

This is my private and personal view. But for me, the way to take responsibility, is not for the person in charge to quit his job or demoting the official in charge, while leaving the cause of the matter vague, in a limbo. An incomplete investigation that apparently aims at closing the matter does not work. Rather, in my opinion, the way to go would be to pursue the cause from a fair standpoint and perception; maintain a record of accumulated facts; revise the organization based on such data in order to prevent similar problems from recurring; openly report the results of the study and analysis to the people; if the cause of the problem has been made clear, the person responsible should make an apology, and after performing appropriate ablutions, continue to perform his or her duties appointed to them, with a renewed conviction. That is the proper way of taking responsibility, I think. To see the person in charge of the organization accept making a mistake, to show his remorse and make a heartfelt apology, and seek new ways to correct the mistake, will certainly bring the people around. There is no way the Japanese people will refuse to accept the apology. Why won’t the organizing committee believe in the people and their high level of cognizance?

Even at this moment, athletes around the world are continuing with their strenuous training, working hard to break through the barrier of a mere one-hundredth second, to enter into a new realm that no human being has ever reached. I wished that this problem be resolved as soon as possible, thinking about such athletes, deep in training. In reality, we were supposed to develop a design that symbolized their sacred and genuine spirit aiming for perfection. But during the process we were brought down by an act of injustice, a fraud unheard of. Unfortunately, the organizing committee that should have been in control of the matter has not yet committed itself to facing the problem issue. It is not fair, to say the least, and the opposite of what we expect from good sportsmanship. If this way of thinking prevails, I am afraid that new problems may continue to crop up in the future. Unless the organizing committee commits itself to changing its stance, the event will live on as a negative legacy in the minds of the Japanese people.

Keiko Hirano
Keiko Hirano: 
Designer/Visioner, Executive Director of Communication Design Laboratory
Hirano served on the panel that chose the official emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was ultimately withdrawn.