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Olympic logo designer finds links inspiration after 9/11 attacks

The creator of the official logos for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics said he got the inspiration for his winning designs from the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Asao Tokoro said he was so shocked when he saw TV coverage of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults on New York and Washington that he became concerned about the divisions that exist between peoples, nations and ideologies. He came to realize that “links” are the key to closing the gaps between such divisions.

“Links have since become an important theme for me to deal with the huge disparities,” the 46-year-old said.

After 9/11, he began studying and drawing patterns with the central idea of links.

By linking 45 rectangular indigo blue pieces, Tokoro created a checkered design, which is not only a popular traditional Japanese pattern but also one embraced elsewhere in the world. The pieces came in three different shapes.

His entry was popular with the organizing committee and was selected as the winner in April out of 14,599 submitted designs.

“I spent so much time drawing my designs,” he said. “They are like my own children.”

Tokoro majored in architecture at Tokyo Zokei University and has taught at Musashino Art University and other universities.

Sporting a close-cropped hairstyle, white beard and silver-rimmed glasses, Tokoro has expertise in many fields, such as art, design and architecture.

One of his representative works is the outer wall of the Dai Nagoya Building, which was rebuilt in October last year. The exterior glass wall of the building features a geometric design at the suggestion of Tokoro.

Tokoro said he does not clearly remember much about past Olympics as a child growing up.

“My parents did not allow me to watch TV frequently,” he said.

Although he belonged to a ski club at the Tokyo metropolitan government-run Koishikawa high school, Tokoro said he was never really active in sports for many years.

“I could not become an athlete, but I can have a connection with the Olympics, which I have admired through design,” he said. “I will do my best to draw designs.”


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