Dear London 2012 Olympics,
Let's talk about your logo. In the bidding process for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, Kino Design created a lovely image of a ribbon of the Olympic colors weaving through "London 2012" in the shape of your iconic River Thames. It was simple and eye-catching. It clearly stated the city and the year. It had an Olympic feel. It reflected a unique aspect of the host city. It was everything an Olympic logo should be. Your logo for the actual Games, by Wolff Olins, not so much.
I understand that your goal was to reach young people. You probably should have asked some young people (or, you know, people) what they thought of the design. Young people aren't just bright colors and hard-to-read, though it may seem like that sometimes. Young people appreciate good design as much as the next person. Maybe more so. Ugly does not equal young. The BBC ran a poll in which more than 80% of those surveyed awarded the design the lowest possible rating. Maybe that should have been a hint.
There are many directions you could have taken with this logo business.
Early in the modern Olympic era, the logos were similar, and though they started out fairly plain, they soon transformed into more poster-like advertisements for the Games. Although not all of them succeed on all counts, most of them are simple, eye-catching, have an Olympic feel, and reflect the host city.
Posters eventually gave way to more logo-like representations of a particular Olympic Games, but for many years, each Games had both a logo and a poster (or several). Often, the posters and logos complemented each other, like your own 1948 Games.
Early logos were official-looking affairs, all monotone and seal-like. This is certainly the type of thing to be avoided if you're looking to appeal to a younger crowd, and yet the Olympic Games represent more than 100 years of international competition in the modern era. There's nothing wrong with honoring a little bit of history (like you did so well in your opening ceremony).
Another option would have been to make it painfully obvious that you're the host country. Make the Union Jack the focal point, so nobody can forget the London 2012 happened in the UK. This was the strategy taken by both Los Angeles Games, and two of the three games held in Japan.
Although it seems easiest to accomplish this with a Winter Games, you could have gone with a motif that represents the season, or a particular sport. Snowflakes, like Sapporo above, seem to be a popular choice. Lillehammer used a representation of the aurora, and though St. Mortiz was a Winter Games, the sunshine seems to work.
A sport, a torch, or simply an abstraction (of strength, grace, movement, power, or an element of the host city). Simple and eye-catching. Easy to read. Olympic spirit. Reflection of the host city. More than one of the above are required for a good Olympic logo.
But I see what you were trying to do. You wanted the text itself to be the design. Well-designed text can make for an elegant, stunning, simple, powerful logo. But it's not easy to do.
And yet, with over a century of examples, ranging from excellent to mediocre, you came up with this monstrosity. It hurts my eyes. Animated footage of it triggered seizures in viewers with photosensitive epilepsy. How many people approved the design before it became official?
It's not pleasing to look at. From a distance, it doesn't look like anything at all.
Now, London, I understand that it was a design firm and not you responsible for this particular design, but it's possible to make your design firm start over. It's even possible to fire your design firm and hire another one. Like maybe the one that did your candidate city logo. That one was nice.
I realize it's too late now, so just know that you've won the gold—for worst Olympic logo ever.
The following is a rerun of a blog post I wrote during the 2006 Olympics in Torino.
:060216: My captors want me to choose a favorite event. I can't do it. I love them all. It doesn't matter which event is happening, I love to watch. I can say that some of my least favorite are the team sports. I think this is because of the elimination process. If the two best teams in the world are matched against each other early on, one team gets the chance to try for gold, and the other can't get any medal at all. It just doesn’t seem fair.
At the start of each event, I always find myself rooting for the US. Every two years, for two weeks, I am very patriotic. I enjoy the victories of athletes from my country. I've never met these people, I've never participated in their sport of choice, but their victories are my victories. There is something inspiring about belonging to something that is the best in the world. It feels good to root for the best in the world.
So, although I like to root for Americans, I don't really like to root for Americans who are not the best in the world. I much prefer to root for the best in the world. Doesn't matter what country they come from, if they are medal-bound, I'll whisper my go-go-gos for them, too. I can appreciate the beauty of a sport well done, even if I know nothing about the sport. Yes, I'll readily admit that I am a fair-weather fan.
I'm also a sucker for a good underdog story. A shoddy upbringing, a terrible injury, multiple past Olympic dreams dashed, even a bad pre-competition practice will get me rooting. Speaking of bad pre-competition practices, I am of course rooting for the American, Lindsay Kildow who totally bit it on the downhill during practice, enough to land her in the hospital overnight with deep muscle bruises, and she's skiing now despite the pain. I'm also rooting for the French skier, Carole Montillet-Carles who crashed on the same run, sustaining rib, back and facial injuries. Her face is so bruised and swollen she can barely fit into her helmet.
The element of danger in so many events grips me with fascination. The athletes travel at such incredible speeds in unforgiving environments. You don't realize just how fast they are going until they fall, and you see how high they bounce. How did they get to the level where they can handle those extremes? Then it dawns on me that they start out small. Very small. They have worked for years and years to get to where they are. I not only cannot fathom working so hard on something to get so good at it, I also cannot fathom spending so much of my life focused on a single pursuit. One sport. One single idea. Every moment of your free time since you were very small.
It is because of this that I wonder what goes on in the minds of medalists on the podium. Some grin stupidly, and can't really believe that they are there. Some weep with the release that comes from years of pressure coming to fruition. Probably none of them are thinking yet, "Ok, what now?" Now that they have done what they set out to do, what they have spent every moment of their free time doing for as long as they can remember, what do they do now? These athletes are not very old. The youngest of them will set their sights four years into the future and prepare for the next Olympic games, or other competitions. Some will become commentators for their particular sport. I guess the rest will get a job.
All in all, I am a fan of sport, of friendly competition, of the top dog and the underdog, of the fastest race and of the fairest race, of the home team, of the falls that are agonizing out of pain or out of broken dreams, of giving it your all, even when you know with absolute certainty that you will not win the medal. And yes, I’m absolutely and unashamedly a fan of the "Life Takes Visa" commercials.