033 Living in the moment

The organizers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games announced the winning logo design on April 25, 2016. I had posted my thoughts regarding the final four candidates for the logo of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in my previous post, chapter 032, and I was hoping to do the same again as soon as the winning logo was unveiled. Unfortunately I found myself in a situation that made it physically impossible to put down my thoughts in writing. Though this is a private matter, I would like to explain the reason why I could not update my blog.

I have been struggling with a health issue for a while. For the past few years, I had to cut back on my workload and I have been concentrating on treatment and recovery. In the beginning of 2016, my condition worsened. I was now forced to undergo an operation and entered a hospital. I did not want to add anymore woes before the operation. Thus I hoped that the surgery—the date had already been set—would not coincide with the unveiling of the winning Olympic logo. But lo and behold, my surgery took place not only on the same day but at the same time the organizing committee revealed the new Olympics logo. Just another example of life’s little ironies.

During my stay in hospital, in order to concentrate on my recovery process, I blocked all incoming information. So I was not in the know about current news in real time. I only learned about the winning logo after I returned home from the hospital. I heard that there were many articles written up and reported in various media, citing the contents of my blog, chapter 032: many pronouncing how my “prediction hit the mark”. I was told such articles cropped up right after the announcement of the new logo. I learned all this after I left the hospital, from other people.

Some of the media releases that were written citing portions of my blog seemed to be bent on distortion—cherry-picking and stressing provocative words, disconnected from the gist of the actual contents of the blog. I was pained to see how words that were misinterpreted and clearly deviating from the original spirit of my blog were being spread, as if these were my own views I posted in my blog. But alas, I was becoming aware of something else, as I continued with my musings over the emblem issue. And my desire for rebuttal against these various articles soon faded away.

Let me explain. Considering the way the organizing committee brought the original competition to a conclusion, and how—after scrapping the winning design—it called for a new competition, taking pains to paint a new picture using easy and accessible words such as “a clean and fair competition”, “an open competition for all people”, how it stressed the legitimacy of the competition over and over, when in reality, it seemed totally unfair not to give any explanation as to the actual selection process. Nothing was revealed about the specific contents. We were never told how the four final candidates were selected; for what reason they were chosen out of the 14,599 entries. To get away with not giving an explanation as to the basis for choosing the winning design—an explanation that is surely rooted in the selection criteria itself—seems exceptionally disrespectful not only to the top entrants who were chosen, but to the other entrants whose designs were not chosen. I think it is also a show of disrespect towards the members of the selection committee. After giving so much effort in coming up with a new structure and carefully preparing for a competition with no mishaps whatsoever, in the end the organizers let us down by failing to give a credible explanation regarding the competition’s crucial center. Thus, we were left with a competition highly lacking in clarity, with a low level of satisfaction. This was the reality that was widely shared by the Japanese people. I came to feel that angst and suspicion, frustration towards the organizing committee’s way of conducting matters—this was what was fueling reports and articles in the media and prompting opinions aired through SNS. Thus I dismissed my initial urge for rebuttal.

That said, if I see something that is widely off the mark, I cannot help feeling a pang in my heart. The only thing that I can do for now is to hope that people will not stop at reading such reports, written using such incendiary words aimed to infuriate and disturb people’s minds, but to read the original blog postings for a deeper understanding of my true intentions.

I was only discharged from the hospital a while ago, and my grasp of the situation and various information is not yet complete. Therefore I will need some more time to digest it all, but I would definitely like to offer my views and write about the new emblem that was selected for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. As a designer who is living in the moment, it would be unnatural not to comment on the winning design. Furthermore, to speak about the winning design, is in fact, a way of expressing “courtesy” towards all the people who worked so hard in order to choose a logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, all the entrants who sent in their work, and of course, the readers of my blog.

Through my experience with the Olympic logo debacle, I came to understand more than ever, that a lot of people who are tasked with disseminating information have the urge to “control information”. So many people out there have caught the bug. We must be wary and be alert not to accept information at face value, information that has been restricted and controlled by the dispatcher according to his or her agenda. It is up to us to deepen our perceptions, heighten our insights to see and capture the truth. In addition to information gathering skills, we must equip ourselves with the ability to assess information. I have come to believe that is the only way to break free of the spell of propaganda.

In this ever-changing world, living in a society that continues to reshape itself, we must not give in to despair and acceptance. By never relinquishing the power to think and by willing yourself to do so, I believe we can attain the freedom to live with an independent mind.

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.