compiled by John Jan Popovic

1964   Tokyo

Concept of the pictograms and their use:

To many spectators, pictograms are a familiar form of Olympic imagery. First introduced at the 1948 Games in London, they became an integral facet of Olympic Games design at he Tokyo Games of 1964, serving an invaluable function as elegant and simple wayfinding devices.

The pictograms of London 1948
The pictograms of London 1948

Pictograms have been a part of Olympic design programs since they were first formaly introduced at the 1964 Tokyo Games. The stylized figures easily communicate information to visitors and participants who have diverse language and cultural backgrounds.

New pictograms were disigned for Mexico in 1968, Munich in 1972 and Moscow in 1980.
Montreal chose the use the Munich pictograms. The LAOOC first inquired about the purchase rights of the pictograms used at Munich and later Montreal, but found the price to be higher than the costs of commissioning new pictograms and chose instead to sponsor a competition. 

Symbols used during the Tokyo Games

Artistic director:    Masaru Katzumie
Graphic designer: Yoshiro Yamashita

The first systematically designed set of pictograms for both sports and services was created for the Games in Tokyo in 1964 by Masasa Katzumie as artistic director and Yoshiro Yamashita as graphic designer.

The Tokyo projekt included the design of 20 pictograms for the different sports and a further 39 general information pictograms.

Examples of service pictograms

Copyright 1964 by the Organizing Committee for the Games of the XVIII Olympiad

Book presentation "Olympic Pictograms"


    1968   Mexico City

Artistic directors:     Manuel Villazon,   Mathias Goerlitz
Graphic designers:   Lance Wyman,    Eduardo Terrazas
Language problems associated with guiding and informing participants and the general public were minimized through the use of concise Olympic symbology.

A group of Olympic Identity Program designers collaborated on the creation of these symbols, which were employed to designate the events and installations for bboth the sports program and the Cultural Olympiad.

( Source document:   Official Report 1968 , Vol. 2, page 307)
© 1969,  Organizing Committee of the Games of the XIX Olympiad, MEXICO 68

Ticket with several pictograms

    1972   Munich
In General

Thirty-four different languages are spoken in Europe alone. For this reason it was necessary for the OC in the interest of international visitors not to limit itself to verbal information, but rather to take advantage of the possibility of generally intelligible pictorial symbols. The OC also conceived a second visual system in addition to the sports symbols which were intended to serve as general information. This system was constructed of pictograms — symbols which translate the message into visually understood picture language. It especially included directions to services, transportation and information which would make the flow of communication possible and also ease it.

Archery Athletics Basketball Boxing
Canoe Cyclisme Equestrian Sports Fencing
Football Gymnastic Handball Hockey
Judo Pentathlon moderne Rowing Shooting
Swimming Volleyball Weihtlifting Wresling

The pictograms used in Munich, created by the Director  of the Higher Institute of Graphic Arts in Ulm, Otl Aicher.


Otl Aicher, design director for the Munich 1972 games, developed a set of pictograms of such breathtaking elegance and clarity that they would never be surpassed. Aicher (1922-1991), founder of the Ulm design school and consultant to Braun and Lufthansa, was the quintessential German designer: precise, cool and logical. The design system he developed for the Munich games, all geometry, grids and Univers 55, is perhaps his greatest achievement.

The System of Symbols for Various Sports

There were only four different traffic signs in 1922. Today there are more than 150. The continually closer interrelation among traffic, information, the economy or tourism demands new methods of communication. Often the very simplest verbal communication is frustrated because of a lack of the knowledge required for a language or alphabet. This is especially obvious at large international events at which visitors from every continent participate.

It was also a major task for the Munich organizers to design a system of visual symbols of universal intelligibility which would aid visitors in regard to information and communications. Thus there are two systems; one being the sports symbols and the other being the pictograms for information regarding services and traffic which have been described already. The sports symbols do not have the function merely to symbolize the individual athletic disciplines in the press, on television or medals and souvenirs, but they are simultaneously means of information regarding the sports sites and training areas of a specific sport. With the aid of arrows the symbols pointed the way and designated those coaches and helpers responsible for a certain sport as well as the admission tickets, schedules, rules and regulations listings, etc. 

After the first attempts at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, a closed system of symbols was conceived for the first time under the direction of Masaru Katsumi in 1964 for the Olympic Games in Tokyo. The value of the system as a universally intelligible means of information instead of multilingual verbal messages was so effective that all succeeding Games would not be possible without such a system. At the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, the Mexican OC developed a system of symbols, which nevertheless had a more illustrative character and was based on sports equipment.

Source document:   Official Report 1972, Vol. 1, page 271)
© 1972 Copyright by Munich Organizing Committee


    1976   Montreal

COJO gave the Graphics and Design Directorate a mandate to design a sign program for roads, cities, and Olympic competition sites. One team developed an "outside" sign concept, while a second group worked on a system for dividing the various stadiums into sections and seat arrangements, planning the signs needed. In November, 1975, the directorate was able to present the results of its research to the COJO executive committee. The project later was part of the vast sign manual published in order to make everyone familiar with each element of the sign program, thus guaranteeing their rational and efficient application in conformity with the overall projection of the 1976 Olympic Games image.

Archery Athletics Basketball Boxing
Canoe Cyclisme Equestrian Sports Fencing
Football Gymnastic Handball Hockey
Judo Pentathlon moderne Rowing Shooting
Swimming Volleyball Weihtlifting Wresling
The sign system selected was based on pictograms generally accompanied by an explanatory text in both official languages. COJO used the pictograms from the Munich Games in order to assure continuity in symbolic language. Some service pictograms, however, had to be modified for North American needs. The manual included precise instructions about the design of the sign panels. Types and formats were reduced to a minimum, first, for uniformity, and, second, to reduce manufacturing costs. Permanent panels, mounted at the actual competition sites, were of prefinished aluminium, while temporary road signs were made of plastic. The inscriptions were stenciled on and cut from adhesive vinyl sheets.

The rules of composition for the panels were as follows: all featured a dark blue background. The pictograms designating the sports were in white on a red base; those related to services were white on a green base, and the letters in the texts and the arrows were

Source document: Official Report 1976 , Vol. 1, page 344
©  Copyright COJO 76, Ottawa 1978


1980   Moscow


Sports pictographs, as we know, are pictographic drawings symbolising sports. They serve as points of reference and help overcome language barrier. Over the past few years, they have been integrated into the decoration of Olympic cities, and have been depicted in Olympic posters, commemorative medals, postage stamps, tickets, souvenirs, etc.

On the OCOG-80`s request, graduates from several art colleges took up the design of the pictographs of the insignia as the theme of their dissertations. With the help of the resachr institute of industrial aesthetics, the Organising Committee chose the work submitted by Nikolai Belkow, Mukhina Art School graduate from Leningrad.

Nikolai Belkov

The State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries under the USSR Council of Ministers recognised the new design as a production pattern.

Though highly stylised, the new signs are easily comprehensible. They are smoother in outline because they are constructed at an angle of 30 `- 60 `(previously the angle was  45` - 90`).

Another merit of the new system is that the design can be adapted for use in four representations: direct (solid, black against a white background), reverse (solid, white against a black background), contour (black contour against a white background), and reverse-contour (white contour against a black background), and permit several colour and shade and size variations.

The symbols for the 1980 Olympic games, held in Moscow, were designed by Nikolai Belkow, fresh out of art school. His designs are more rounded out and smoothed than Aicher's, but are still very stripped down and stylized.
In this production sketch that gives a behind-the-scenes look at the skeleton of each illustration. Notice that the angles he's using (30 and 60º) are much less harsh and deliberate than the 45º angles used by Otl Aicher.

1984   Los Angeles
Development of the sports pictograms

The review committee was given a presentation which surveyed the entire design development process used by Bright and Associates in creating the pictograms. Beginning with a critique
of the five previous Olympic pictograms, six criteria were isolated as essential to a successful pictogram:
                    o Clear communication; pictograms, by themselves, should be recognizable
                       by people of other nations.
                    o Consistency; the pictograms should be identifiable as a set, through
                       uniform treatment of scale, style and subject.
                    o Legibility and practicality; they should be highly visible, easy to
                       reproduce in any scale and in positive or negative form.
                    o Flexibility; the pictograms should not be dependent upon a border and
                       should work equally well in a positive or negative form.
                    o Design distinction; the pictograms should avoid stylistic fads or a
                       commercial appearance and should imply to a worldwide audience that
                       Los Angeles has a sophisticated, creative culture.
                    o Compatibility; they should be attractive when used with their Los
                      Angeles Olympic design elements and typestyles.

Pictogramms used on the exterior of the Coliseum are in Festive Federalism colors.

In the development stage, Bright and Associates sought to create pictograms that would be used primarily for directional signing purposes, a critical factor in the Los Angeles area since the events would be held at a variety of locations. Therefore, it was essential that the pictograms communicate clearly and be highly visible. During the Games, the pictograms served primarily decorative purposes rather than as signing elements, but in 1980, no one anticipated that this would be the case.

n creating the new pictograms, exploratory sketches examined the use of partial figures, realistic figure images and speed lines combined with the figures. It was concluded that partial figures and realistic figures were difficult to decipher and movement associated with the figures made them too busy and impaired legibility. A simple figure composed of 10 fundamental body parts worked well: a circle for the head, an oval for the torso and eight simple parts representing the arms and legs. This modular figure, when placed against a grid pattern, could be recreated in any desired position, effectively portraying any Olympic event.

These new pictograms met the specified criteria. They were easily seen at a distance and clearly communicated their message in a consistent manner using a system of modular forms and a common scale. The system was also practical and flexible, allowing for a variety of positions to be created with a minimal number of design modifications and permitting reproduction in a positive or negative form, with or without a panel or border. The design was distinctive, with the pure, geometric forms creating an idealized human figure which was memorable in appearance and free of stylistic fads.

Registration and copyright of the pictograms
The 23 official pictograms were copyrighted and registered as trademarks
by the LAOOC in 1981. 

(Source document:   Official Report 1984, Vol. I, page 248)
© 1985 Copyright by the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee

1988   Seoul
Pictograms 1988

Pictograms were produced to help overcome communication difficulty arising from different languages. They were also intended to accentuate the unique image of the Seoul Olympic

Sports pictograms, used on banners and infomational balloons, 
were convenient for spectators.

Sports Pictograms

In March 1985, the SLOOC produced 27 pictograms to be used for the Seoul Asian Games and the 24th Olympic Games. Following the Asian Games, however, the SLOOC decided to develop new creative Olympic pictograms, clearly distinguishable from those used in past Games, so as to emphasize the refreshing image of the Seoul Olympics.

The work on the pictograms started in December 1986, and 30 draft pictograms were produced in April 1987, including 23 for the official sports, four for demonstration and exhibition sports, and three for torch relay, marathon, and water polo. After two rounds of screening, the draft pictograms were approved as official pictograms in May 1987

The sports pictograms were distinguishable from the past Games by the division of the composition into trunk, arms, legs and head. The connecting parts for arms and legs were treated in a simple and clear fashion but resembling as close to the composition of
human frame as possible. Sports pictograms were also utilized as elements of expression in various public relations and printed materials, including decoration, admission tickets for each sport and posters.

Guide Pictogramms

Funktional pictograms helped guide visitors to transportation and other services

Guide Pictogramms

Guide pictograms were used to direct people to amenities, facilities or services.

In September 1985, the SLOOC organized an in-house production team to begin the work on the guide pictograms; final designs of the guide pictograms covering 70 types were compledtd in January 1986, and were used during the Seoul Asian Games. In preparation for the Seoul Olympic Games, eight types were additionally produced in September 1987. The guide pictograms were designed in forms to enliven the image of the Seoul Olympic Games and to be easily understood by all concerned.

( Source document:    Official Report 1988, Vol. I, page 650)
© 1988 by the Seoul Olympic Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games

    1992   Barcelona
The pictograms 1992

Pictograms had been widely used since Munich in 1972. The person in overall charge of the visual style of those Games was the great designer Otl Aicher, under whose direction a series of sports and services pictograms were created from a basic geometric formula. They became so widespread as to be practically universal. At the Montreal Games they were used without any changes, in Los Angeles and Seoul only slight modifications were introduced. In Barcelona, though the Munich shapes were still used as a starting point, the break in style was more audacious, as the geometric formula was abandoned in favour of the characteristic line of the emblem created by Josep. M. Trias and its representational simplification of the human body in three parts (head, arms and legs) was also adopted.

In the sports pictograms, the fundamental reference point is the human body in the postures which are most characteristic of the practice of each sport. The competition ground, however, also appears when necessary for the sign to be understood, as in the case of swimming, water polo and the nautical sports, in which the water line appears in various guises. In the other sports, the human body is combined with the characteristic equipment of each one (net, racket, foil, ball, rifle). There were thirty-two sports pictograms for Barcelona'92: one for each of the twenty-five official and the three demonstration sports, plus four for the modes (synchronized swimming, diving and water polo —differentiated in this way from swimming itself, the races, which were identified by the generic pictogram for swimming— and slalom canoeing, which had to be distinguished from the flat water variety).

Service pictograms 

The services pictograms were intended to guide the public in the surroundings and the interior of the Olympic units, whether competition venues, training facilities or service centres. In Barcelona eighty-two were specially designed in the same graphic style as the sports pictograms and five more were invented incorporating existing symbols for public services and transport.

(Source document:  Official Report 1992, Vol. III, page 326)
© 1992 COOB'92, S.A., Plaça de la Font Màgica, s/n, 08038 Barcelona

1996   Atlanta
Pictograms 1996

To many spectators, pictograms are a familiar form of Olympic imagery. First introduced at the 1948 Games in London, they became an integral facet of Olympic Games design at he Tokyo Games of 1964, serving an invaluable function as elegant and simple wayfinding devices. Abstract imagery had been most common in pictograms used at prior Olympic Games, but in the spirit of the 100th annivarsary of the modern Olympic Games, ACOG selected pictograms of the human form that captured the commonality between the grace of a posed athlete and the graceful, personal quality of the South.

The pictograms of Atlanta 1996

Archery Athletics Boxing Canoe
Canoe Kayak Slalom Cyclisme Equestrian Sports Fencing
Football Gymnastic Handball Hockey
Judo Pentathlon moderne Sailing Swimming
Tennis Volleyball Weihtlifting Wresling
Badminton  Rythmic Gymnastics Swimming Syncron  Waterpolo

For the Atlanta Games, 84
pictograms were used—31 sports and 53 service
pictograms—as well as 7 zone code and 5 transportation
code symbols.

Prior to the Games, the sports pictograms were used extensively by licensees in Olympic Games merchandise and collectibles. Official use was restricted to documents and signage specific to individual sports and disciplines.

Sports pictogramms were used extensively in the Look Program. To complement the sports pictograms and facilitate wayfinding, Creative Services also designed a series of service pictograms that were used extensively at Games-time.

(Source document:  Official Report 1996, vols. I, page 134)
© 1997 by The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games

    2000 Sydney
The Sydney 2000 Pictograms:

There will be 28 sports and 19 associated disciplines at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
The 34 sporting pictograms represent 24 of these sports and ten of the disciplines.

The pictograms have been specially designed for the Sydney Olympic Games to be used as a directional aid to spectators, athletes and officials during the days of competition in 2000. This is why some disciplines - rather than their controlling sport - have separate pictograms if they are being contested at different times or at different venues.

For ease of understanding, the 28 sports are:
aquatics, archery, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, boxing, canoe/kayak, cycling equestrian, fencing, football, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, modern pentathlon, rowing, sailing shooting, softball, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, triathlon, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling.

Seven of these sports have disciplines, which are separate competitions contested under the jurisdiction of a specific sport. The seven sports and their disciplines are:

Aquatics: four disciplines - diving, swimming, synchronized swimming and water polo.

Canoe/kayak: two disciplines - slalom and sprint.

Cycling: three disciplines: road, track and mountain bike.

Equestrian: three disciplines - dressage, jumping and three-day event.

Gymnastics: three disciplines - artistic, rhythmic and trampolining.

Volleyball: two disciplines - volleyball and beach volleyball (nb: volleyball discipline is played indoors. The sport and the discipline share the same name).

Wrestling: two disciplines - freestyle and Greco-Roman.

Source document: Travis Cranley, Sports Publications

The pictograms of Sydney 2000
The pictograms of Sydney 2000

2004 Athens
Sport Pictograms

Sport pictograms are used as the essential visual reference for any information related to the Competition Schedule and the Venues. Each is a seperate image showing the Sports and Disciplines special features and enabling the viewer to recognise them immediately. The Image & Identity Department directed the design of 35 pictograms representing the 28 Olympic Sports and certain Disciplines.

The ATHENS 2004 Sport pictograms were inspired by three elements of ancient Greek civilisation. The simplicity of the human form is inspired by the Cycladic figurines. The Artistic expression of the Pictogram derives from the black-figure vases, where solid black shapes represent the human body and a single line defines the detailing of the form. The figures of the pictograms are solid and clearly drawn on a background similar to a gragment of an ancient vase.

While their inspiration was very artistic and cultural, the ATHENS 2004 Sport pictograms were very accurate in depicting the most recognisable movement of each individual Sport and Discipline and were approved by all International Federations and by the IOC.

Source document: Official Report 2004 , Vol. 1, page 323












Canoe Flatwater


Artistics Gymnastics


Rythmic Gymnastics




Modern Pentahlon




Canoe Kayak Slalom



Swimming Syncron








    2008 Beijing

Artistic Gymnastics
Canoe/Kayak Slalom


Synchronized Swimming


Water Polo


Rhythmic Gymnastics

Canoe/Kayak Flatwater










Table Tennis








Beach Volleyball




Please visit the Official Beijing 2008 website for more information: Pictograms 2008

    A Mini History Of Olympic Pictograms
You can test your knowledge of the history of Olympic Pictograms.
By Yuri Kusina

The 1996 Atlanta Olympics are behind us now, but take one more moment to look at what I found on Olympic Pictograms. I think that you'll find it interesting. Above are examples of what we'll see 2 years from now in Nagano, Japan. Beautifully sweeping lines create the movement that defines Olympic action. Nice. If any of you know who designed these let me know (the article didn't mention it, unfortunately).

Below you will find a collection of past pictograms from the past 30 years. These examples came courtesy of Wei Yew, a graphic designer in Edmenton, Canada who's recently authored "The Olympic Image-The First 100 Years"(Quon Editions, available with a companion CD-ROM). Except for a rare brochure found from the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, the article stated that there was no documentation of signage programs for the Olympics until 1968.

The German graphic designer, Otl Aicher, is today regarded as the father of the visual design of Olympic Games. He developed the coordinated set of pictograms for signage and a rich palette of colors for street decorations and signage for the 1972 Munich Olympics. His pictograms were used again in the 1976 Montreal, they were so good.

The next major contribution came from America's Deborah Sussman and Paul Prejza for the 1984 Los Angeles Games. I was there and it was truly a gorgeous presentation. The most current graphic wizards for Olympics come from the Design firms of Copeland and Hirthler and Malcolm Grear Designers, who created the look for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Guess the Pictogram

Guess what year and where a pictogram was used. See answers below!

A Mini History Of Olympic Pictograms

Game Results

01. 1936 Berlin

02. 1968 Mexico

03. 1972 Munich, 1976 Montreal

04. 1976 Innsbruck

05. 1980 Moscow

06. 1984 Los Angeles

07. 1984 Sarajevo

08. 1988 Seoul

09. 1992 Albertsville

10. 1992 Barcelona

11. 1994 Lillehammer

12. 1996 Atlanta

  • The pictograms of Torino 2006
    The pictograms of Torino 2006
  • The pictograms of Salt Lake City 2002
    The pictograms of Salt Lake City 2002
  • The pictograms of Nagano 1998
    The pictograms of Nagano 1998
  • The pictograms of Lillehammer 1994
    The pictograms of Lillehammer 1994
  • The pictograms of Albertville 1992
    The pictograms of Albertville 1992

  • The pictograms of Calgary 1988
    The pictograms of Calgary 1988

The pictograms of Sarajevo 1984

  • The pictograms of Sarajevo 1984


  • The pictograms of Lake Placid 1980
    The pictograms of Lake Placid 1980

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