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Then and Now: 10 Different Olympics Logos and Why They Worked for Their Time

Once a mere sporting contest, the Olympic Games are now a major event that receives worldwide attention and coverage. Each set of games has its own location, traditions, and a professional sports logo. While there is a new Olympic logo every four years, some are more compelling and visually stimulating than others (Tokyo 1964 anyone?). Whether it is due to a multi-meaning graphic, visual appeal, or an especially appropriate color choice, these ten Olympic logos are clear winners for capturing the spirit of their host countries and the essence of their times.

1. Lake Placid 1932 Olympics Logo

Lake Placid 1932 Olympics Logo
The professional logo for the winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, NY is a clear winner because it incorporates several symbols into one simple logo – like a gold medal. First, the picture of the skier appears to have two mountains in the background, but if you look closer the space between the two mountains forms the shape of the continental United States. The blue of the mountains is carefully selected by the graphic designer so it can also look like the ocean, this depends on how you are viewing the picture. Kudos to the International Olympic Committee for deviating from the usual design motifs and styles on this one.


2. Oslo 1952 Olympics Logo

Oslo 1952 Olympics Logo
The Oslo Olympics were the first winter games to be held in the capitol city of a nation. As such, the New Oslo Town Hall is a good choice for the center of the professional logo design. The building’s unadorned exterior was an excellent example of modern, Scandinavian style at the time, and it creates a symmetrical image incorporating the Olympic rings in the foreground.


3. Mexico 1968 Olympics Logo

Mexico 1968 Olympics Logo
The professional logo for the 1968 Summer Games features a style seen in the art of native Latin American art with layered lines. The lines spell out ‘Mexico’ and ‘68’ with the Olympic rings woven in. The rings fit into the design beautifully but are noticeable due to the fact that they are the only color in the logo. This logo is an apt representation of the only Latin American country to host an Olympic Games.


4. Munich 1972 Olympics Logo

Munich 1972 Olympics Logo
In 1972, Germany was a newly democratic nation looking forward to a brighter future. As such, the professional logo for the 1972 Olympic Games in this city is a stylized sun. The sun’s rays are slightly distorted by a spiral, which gives the feeling of the rays coming out at the viewer. The logo is in a circle shape, which ties into the Olympic rings.


5. Moscow 1980 Olympics Logo

Moscow 1980 Olympics Logo
The stakes were high for the USSR in the Moscow Olympic Games. The socialist country was being recognized as a legitimate entity by the majority of the international sports community. However, the professional logo design was by no means a compromise with the many countries who protested these games. The red color is suggestive of the red color used in the flags of communist countries, while the star above a stylized Kremlin represents a very communist Russia reaching toward excellence.


6. Los Angeles 1984 Olympics Logo

Los Angeles 1984 Olympics Logo
In 1984, the Olympics returned to the United States following the nation’s boycott of the preceding Olympic Games in Moscow. In response to the proud Soviet Olympic logo of the 1980 games, the United States developed a distinctly American logo for the 1984 Olympic Games. The three stars are reminiscent of the stars on the American flag, and they are in the same red, white, and blue color scheme as well. The stars are interlocked in a way that mimics the overlapping Olympic rings.


7. Lillehammer 1994 Olympics Logo

Lillehammer 1994 Olympics Logo
This Olympic logo incorporates two symbols widely associated with winter in Norway, the Aurora Borealis and snow crystals. The northern lights are stylized, while the snow crystals break away from the bottom of the graphic. A sky blue makes up the background. The result is a stylish image that perfectly represents these Olympic Games in the Land of the Midnight Sun.


8. Athens 2004 Olympics Logo

Athens 2004 Olympics Logo
2004 was the first time in over a century that the Olympic Games were held in the land of their origin, Greece. This special occasion required a special logo. The professional logo has a watercolor background representing the oceans of this seafaring nation, in the exact same color blue used in the Greek flag. The wreath of olives represents the traditional prize given to Olympic winners, but the graphic is stylized to give it a modern edge.


9. Beijing 2008 Olympics Logo

Beijing 2008 Olympics Logo
The professional logo for the Olympic Games in 2008 is a clear winner because of how it is tied to its host city. The dancing figure in the logo is actually a stylized representation of the word ‘jing’, which means capital in Chinese and is the second word of the city’s name. Design suggests that the city is alive and playful, which is exactly the image that China wanted to send. The shade of red used in the logo is the exact same as the Chinese flag. The font of the city’s name and year are below the graphic in a readable but distinctly Asian font. These games united East and West, and the logo shows that clearly.


10. London 2012 Olympics Logo

London 2012 Olympics Logo
Does London’s 2012 Olympic logo deserve a place in this list? You decide. This controversial logo has been protested for its untraditionally bright color palette and its slight resemblance to a swastika, as well as the claim that some people see an inappropriate sexual figure in the shapes and has been deemed by many to be a logo disaster. The logo features the block numbers ‘2012’ with highlighter yellow shadowing. The professional logo is meant to appeal to the young people of Great Britain, and its success or lack thereof will be seen in coming years. Meanwhile, it has instigated more discussion than any logo in Olympic logo design history. Only Tokyo 2020 Olympics logo can come close to the discussion around how bad these logos can be.


What makes an Olympic logo a winner—or any logo at all for that matter? As you can see, visual harmony is only one piece of the puzzle. A professional logo design must tie into the organization it represents (in this case, the nation hosting the games) while remaining appealing to its audience. The quality of any particular logo may not determine the success of the games, but it serves as the face of the millions of people who organize, participate in, and pay to visit this international event. The Olympics aim to bring the world together in a spirit of healthy competition, and the logo is the overarching symbol of this spirit.

Mash Bonigala

Mash B. is the Founder & Creative Director of Logo Design Works. Since 1998, Mash has helped thousands of businesses express their brand messages through creative and award winning logo designs.