Chris Chase

Did Rio de Janiero steal its Olympic logo from a Colorado charity?

Chris Chase
Fourth-Place Medal

Organizers of the Rio Olympics are on the defensive after similarities between the logo for the 2016 Games and a Colorado-based charity foundation were discovered.

The logo, which was released on New Year's Eve at a massive celebration at Copacabana beach, depicts figures embracing in a circular motion. It was soon noticed that the design resembles the logo for The Telluride Foundation, a Colorado charity chaired by Norman Schwarzkopf.

Here's the Rio logo:

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And the one for The Telluride Foundation:

Take away the legs and the red dancer from the Telluride logo and you have Rio's. It's undeniably similar. But is it plagiarism?

The director of the Brazilian agency that created the logo says no. Fred Gelli acknowledges that there are similarities between the two, but guaranteed that his design was original. "For some reason, we missed that one," he said.

[Photos: See London's 2012 Olympic venues]

I posed the plagiarism question to Dan Levy, a graphic designer who also hosts a popular sports podcast. He said it's common for the logos of small businesses to overlap, but that it's inexcusable for a major international sporting event to come up with such an unoriginal design. If the Brazilian press could discover the similarities between Rio 2016 and Telluride, then surely a research and development team could have done the same.

"These logos are way too close for my liking," Levy wrote in an email. "Even the color dispersion is nearly identical. Somebody got ripped off."

The Telluride Foundation, which has yet to comment on the matter, may not be able to complain too loudly though. It seems that the charitable organization did some design-borrowing of its own when it made its logo. Some have noticed its resemblance to "The Dancer" by Henri Matisse.

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If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Matisse would be pleased.

My biggest problem with the Rio logo isn't the similarity to Telluride's or the resemblance between Telluride's and Matisse, but that the logo itself is lifeless and boring. Organizers say the design is supposed to represent "contagious energy, harmonious diversity, exuberant nature and Olympic spirit." I must be missing something.

[Related: Olympic committee considers banning fireworks ]

Herman Melville once said, "It is better to fail in originality than succeed in imitation." Rio 2016 did neither. The logo looks like someone melted the Olympic rings. It's a mess. If you're going to steal a design, at least take a good one.

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