The best (and worst) designs of the Tokyo Olympics


Tokyo 2020 could have occurred a yr late, whereas many of us had been nonetheless holding our breath about the ongoing pandemic. The Video games got here with all types of compromises. Empty stadiums! Masks on the podium! Olympians quarantined to the Village!

Wouldn’t it really feel like the Olympics?

Because it turned out, sure, sure it did! The Olympics had been as large of a spectacle as ever. And quite a bit of that comes all the way down to their design. Japan placed on a surprising occasion, and firms stepped as much as create new merchandise worthy of the second. Effectively, for the most half!

Right here is the best and worst in design at Tokyo 2020.



[Photo: Jinhee Lee/NurPhoto/Getty Images]

Olympic Stadium

Famend Japanese architect Kengo Kuma designed the Olympic Stadium, and it’s a masterpiece. Its wood exterior will win you over, breaking conventions of the large concrete and metal circles that stadiums at all times appear to be. However hidden inside is the deeper innovation: An unparalleled degree of small touches to make the area extra accessible.

It has calm rooms for people who find themselves delicate to an excessive amount of stimuli and bogs designed for individuals with restricted mobility, sight, and listening to. Accessible seats even have shops for recharging wheelchair batteries.

[Photo: ©Tokyo 2020]

Recycled Medals

The gold, silver, and bronze medals at the Olympics at all times take middle stage alongside profitable athletes. And as they glimmer beneath the stadium lights, it’s simple to overlook: The treasured ore inside Tokyo 2020’s medals are sourced from reclaimed supplies.

The nation of Japan started amassing small electronics from its residents in 2017, and its residents stepped up, donating 47,000 tons of gadgets together with 5 million telephones as of 2019. That was sufficient to produce the 66 kilos of gold, 9,000 kilos of silver, and 6,000 kilos of bronze in the 1000’s of medals utilized in the Olympic and Paralympic Video games.


[Photo: ©Tokyo 2020]

Cardboard beds

Cardboard mattress frames?!? The mattress provider Airweave’s recyclable invention was amongst the most controversial choices of the Olympic Video games, particularly as Twitter took them viral as “anti-sex beds,” implying they couldn’t maintain the weight of two individuals.

The rumors proved false. The beds had been technically rated for 440 kilos, and Tokyo organizers went as far as to make clear that intercourse was potential so long as the exercise was restricted to 2 individuals. In the meantime, the Israeli baseball team obtained 9 gamers leaping on one earlier than it collapsed. The rest that occurred on these beds is no one’s rattling enterprise.

Jason Bruges Studio, The Fixed Gardeners, Ueno Park, Tokyo, 2021. [Photo: Jimmy Cohrssen/Tokyo Tokyo FESTIVAL Special 13/courtesy Jason Bruges Studio]

Fixed Gardeners

Throughout the Olympics, four robots have taken up residence in Tokyo’s Ueno Park. These large, mechanical arms have fastidiously tended to an automatic zen backyard. They’ve created 150 distinctive illustrations depicting this yr’s Video games, all by raking patterns into the small lava pebbles of black basalt. The excessive tech undertaking, designed by Jason Bruges Studio, sourced the robots from a BMW manufacturing facility. The robots got here out of retirement for the Video games to create this novel combine of information visualization, public artwork, and Japanese custom.

From Left to Proper- Joseph Fahnbulleh (Olympian), Ebony Morrison (Olympian), Emmanuel Matadee (Olympian), Telfar Clemens (Designer), Mohammed (stand-in mannequin) [Photo: Jason Nocito/courtesy Telfar]

Liberia’s uniforms

Italy will get Armani. Nice Britain will get Adidas and Stella McCartney. However if you happen to’re a small nation, you don’t essentially land an enormous time designer to create your Olympic wardrobe.

However this yr, Liberia—one of the poorest international locations in the world with a inhabitants of simply 5 million individuals—landed the lauded Liberian American designer Telfar Clemens, identified for his inclusive unisex fundamentals. He outfitted Liberian’s three Olympians with avant garde designs, together with a mixture basketball jersey/royal tunic, palazzo pants, and an uneven half tank prime.

[Photo: Oakley]

Oakley Kato glasses

Oakley debuted its newest assertion at this yr’s Video games, and the sun shades had been as jaw dropping  as anticipated. The Kato is a remix of excessive wrap glasses, designed with a single lens that wraps round your face (even your nostril). And you may see how they enhance your individual 100-meter sprint for slightly below $300.

[Photo: Nike]

Nike neon


Nike spent years planning its Olympics assertion—recycled House Hippie footwear—after which, Tokyo 2020 obtained delayed a yr. Designers went again to the lab and refined the imaginative and prescient, infusing a bit extra coloration and optimism into the COVID-adjacent occasion. The design language was dubbed “rawdacious”—earnest supplies and minimal coloration…aside from little items of innovation on every shoe, that are brightly dyed to catch your eye.

Sydney McLaughlin of Staff United States units up for the Girls’s 400m Hurdles Last, by which she set a world document. [Photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images]

Document-crushing monitor

At Olympic Stadium, monitor and fielders are setting new data. It’s thanks largely to coaching…and a newly designed monitor, provided by an organization known as Mondo (which has developed 12 Olympic tracks thus far).

It’s notably bouncier than typical tracks, returning vitality on every stride very like fashionable sneakers do. And whilst you can rightly level out that any new innovation in sports activities makes it more durable to check athletic achievements throughout totally different eras, the reality of the matter is, the Olympians selected it via a course of of iterative testing. Who woulda thunk, they like working quicker.

[Photo: Du Xiaoyi/Xinhua/Getty Images]

The Olympic caldron

It’s breathtaking. The Olympic caldron, designed by the Japanese design agency Nendo, is a minimal orb that blossoms right into a glistening mirror that displays the flame. As an added bonus, a second, duplicate caldron was arrange in a public park alongside the Tokyo waterfront. So whereas the metropolis couldn’t attend the Olympic occasions, they had been nonetheless capable of go to the iconic fireplace.

Pictogram individuals

Japan was the first nation to convey pictograms to the Olympics throughout the 1964 Tokyo Video games. These little icons had been a way to obviously depict which sports activities had been being performed the place to vacationers who spoke totally different languages.

For Tokyo 2020, not solely did Japan create an entire new assortment of pictograms; the nation celebrated their graphic design heritage in the Opening Ceremonies. A crew of blue-suited individuals used all types of choreography and ingenuity to behave out each one of the 50 totally different Olympic disciplines. It’s a riot if you happen to haven’t watched but.


Racist swim caps

Earlier than the Olympic Video games, a model known as Soul Cap developed a particular swim cap that will be extra forgiving when worn on pure Black hair (which is extra liable to fluff out than lay flat).

Soul Cap has bonafide aggressive credentials; it has beforehand partnered with Alice Dearing, who turned the first Black feminine swimmer for Nice Britain on this yr’s Olympics. And but, the Worldwide Swimming Federation rejected the cap for use in the Olympics resulting from its much less streamlined form than the typical Speedo cap.

“We consider that it confirms a scarcity of variety in [the sport],” Danielle Obe, the founding member of the Black Swimming Affiliation, told the Guardian. “Aquatic swimming should do higher.”

Ralph Lauren

Since 2008, Ralph Lauren has outfitted the U.S. crew with its preppy crimson, white, and blue look. (You may additionally know Ralph Lauren as the official label of New Englanders whose partitions are adorned with oil work of their nice grandfathers sitting alongside searching canine.)

[Photo: courtesy Ralph Lauren]

The partnership is a missed alternative to advertise extra forward-looking designers. And the total nautical-inspired look feels prefer it comes from a spot of privilege, which clashes with the spirit of the Olympics as a venue for people of all backgrounds to finish. Like, severely, Ralph Lauren makes it appear to be our athletes are all dressed for the identical one occasion: The 400-meter Don’t Fall Off the Catamaran Tipsy Once more Cuz Dad Actually Will Take Away the Belief Fund This Time.