A wave of Olympic fervour is sweeping the country following the unveiling of the 2012 logo. But Tony Blair, Tessa Jowell, Sebastian Coe, Ken Livingstone and all the other presiding dignitaries won’t be preening themselves on having created it for long. This is a wave of revulsion.
Among the kindest things said about the jagged Rorschach blots, which come in four delightful colourways, is that they resemble a broken window – evidently evoking images of London’s creaking, unreconstructed condition as the host metropolis. Other commentators, more mischievously, detect signs of an SS uniform flash: a truly impious thought for such a multicultural, socially inclusive event as the 2012 Olympic Games.
Now there’s no harm in a huge sporting event like the Olympics being considered inclusive. After all, that’s nothing less than the truth when we consider who’s paying for the extravaganza, whether by direct taxation, Lottery money or (in the case of Londoners) compulsory levy. What’s really inviting ridicule is a set of artificial brand values so multi-faceted and ambitious in their texture that they have given the designers of the brand-encapsulating logo (Wolff Olins) an impossible definitional task.
Thus we are invited to believe that this “iconic brand” (hang on Tessa, isn’t that a bit premature?) is “an emblem that represent(s) the four key “brand pillars” of access, participation, stimulation and inspiration, culminating in the brand vision of “Everyone’s Games” (IPC President Sir Philip Craven).
You get the drift. This “prizes for all” stuff contains the classic Blairite hallmarks of wholesome, assumptive populism and undemanding accessibility. What you will not find lurking among those brand pillars is any reference to winning: a brand attribute you would have thought indispensable in a ruthless competition like the Olympics. There is good reason for this omission. Winning implies losing as well; it is elitist heresy that deserves swatting whenever it breaks out.
Tell that political claptrap to world-class athletes who have spent whole careers bending their sinews to an elusive winning moment.
Naturally, landing the Olympics “contract” is a tremendous national trophy, making political propaganda on behalf of the establishment an irresistible temptation. No more notorious example of this exists than the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But unlike the blighted inhabitants of totalitarian states, the British punter is free to ridicule what crosses the boundaries of credibility. For sure, the Olympics are an inspirational event that should bring out “the winner” in all of us. But to dress them up as Everyone’s Games is a brand extension too far. If the muddled logo, with its broken imagery, is unfortunately reminiscent of equally muddled thinking at the Post Office not so long ago, the brand itself reminds us of something even worse. Something that became a national disaster, after it was hijacked by the politicians’ agenda. Unlike the Dome, however, 2012 will at least have the consolation of one or two genuine default winners.
Of course, the truly multicultural, inclusive thing to have done would have been to put the design out to public tender in the first place, rather than waiting for bloggers to take their revenge. But that might have involved some awkward compromises.
Good luck to Lloyds TSB, so far the only official Locog sponsor, as it tries to bed this logo into its marketing material.
Stuart Smith, Editor