Tokyo 1940 – Graphic Symbols

Designer: Unknown

First, the 1940 Summer Games were awarded to the city of Tokyo in July 1936. At the 37th IOC Session in Warsaw in 1937 the Japanese city of Sapporo, located on the island of Hokkaido, was chosen to host the V Olympic Winter Games. However, on 16 July 1938, when preparations were already in full swing, Japan returned the Summer and Winter Games for 1940 to the IOC, with the reason of “protracted hostilities with no prospect of immediate peace”. Graphic symbols, badges, information sheets and advertising posters had already been designed. Japan’s highest volcano, Fujiyama, was chosen as one of the main motifs for the V Olympic Winter Games and the Games of the XII Olympiad in Tokyo.


After Sapporo and Tokyo had returned the Games to the IOC, the V Olympic Winter Games were awarded to St. Moritz on 3 September 1938. If the Winter Games in St. Moritz had taken place as planned, they might have been held without alpine skiing. There was a conflict between the IOC and the FIS, the International Ski Federation, over the admission of professional ski instructors to the Games. In the eyes of the IOC this contradicted the amateur status. Because of these disputes, the IOC withdrew the Games from St. Moritz on 9 June 1939. The graphic symbol of the Winter Games was a combination of the “Sun of St. Moritz”, the graphic symbol of the town, and the word mark “St. Moritz”, which Walter Herdeg had already designed in 1932, and the Olympic rings. Incidentally, the word mark of St. Moritz was the world’s first ever designed, registered symbol for a holiday destination.


After various cancellations and withdrawals, the Games were transferred to Garmisch-Partenkirchen where the IV Olympic Winter Games had taken place four years earlier. By mid-August 1939, 14 nations had already agreed to participate, including Great Britain and France. Even after the outbreak of the Second World War on 1 September 1939, work continued on expanding the sports facilities. Karl Ritter von Halt, President of the Organising Committee and IOC representative of Germany, wrote in a letter to the IOC President on 20 September 1939: “For the time being, Germany is prepared to host the Winter Games if the current conflict can be brought to an end in time.” It was not until the end of October that Adolf Hitler ordered that the preparatory work be stopped. The Games were officially cancelled on 22 November 1939. The selected graphic symbol had been designed by one Mr. Süß from Munich. In the middle there is various sports equipment, in the background the Alpspitze, the local mountain of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. This graphic symbol is very similar to that of 1936.


After Tokyo had officially returned the right to host the event to the IOC in July 1938, Helsinki was designated as the new venue. The Finnish capital had already applied at the 36th IOC Session in Berlin in 1936. The Games were to take place from 20 July to 4 August 1940, but due to the Second World War they could not be held in the end, but finally Helsinki/Finland was awarded the Ga-mes again in 1952. However, within the 15 months between the award of the contract and the planned start of the XII Olympic Games, a lot of preliminary work had already been completed. Ilmari Sysimetsä designed the official poster. The graphic symbol of the Games formed a radiant flame in a rectangle. Above the flame the Olympic rings were placed, including the year and the host city as well as the country. A round version of the graphic symbol was used as a vignette and translated into countless languages.