Like Peter Gabriel Imson, the United States’ first born baby of 2011, the new emblem for the 2016 Summer Olympics to be held in Rio de Janeiro is the first major unveiling of 2011. Launched on New Year’s eve at Copacabana beach the new emblem is the result of a 130-plus-agency competition won by Brazilian design firm Tátil. A breakdown of the various meanings of the logo can be found at the official Rio 2016 website.
Inspired by Rio’s nature, the athletes and its people, the Brand of the 2016 Rio Olympic Games evokes unity, inspires the will and desire to work together, to share our knowledge and talents, to join forces and ambitions for a sustainable way of life that will transform the present and our future.
It’s a brand that embodies unity, transformation, passion and energy. It’s a large collective network in motion, an invitation and inspiration to Rio and the world.
— Tátil project page.
In contrast to the much debated/hated Wolff Olins identity of the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics, the Rio 2016 emblem is a traditional take on Olympic identity: a single icon that represents all kinds of Olympic spirit goodness while somehow representing the local visual culture. And this emblem does it in spades. The feel-good aspect is, of course, the three figures holding hands in harmony, unity, diversity, and three-dimensionality while the local flavor is added through a) the obvious, the colors of the Brazilian flag and b) the not so obvious, a reflection of the contour of the photogenic Pão de Açucar (“Sugarloaf”) mountain. All of these excellent selling points for the Olympic committee.
Whether you like icons of semi-people holding hands or not — I don’t — this one in particular is well done not because it excels in amorphous-izing the human figure but because it at least tries to integrate a few more ideas through this visual cliché, successfully embedding the shape of the mountain but also managing to spell out an abstract “Rio”. The custom script under the icon goes very well with the icon and helps add that personable and welcoming attitude that a city wants to exude to millions of visitors.
This is a pretty decent start to the identity but the bigger challenge is extending it to a complete Olympic program and we’ll see if this has enough legs, or arms.