Secretary General of the Iranian Olympic committee, Bahram Afsharzadeh, made a statement through Iran’s official news service that he believes the 2012 Olympic logo is a racist image which spells out the word “Zion,” a widely used term referring to Jerusalem. Afsharzadeh aired his concerns to International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge, warning in a letter that if his concerns are not addressed, Iran may boycott the games in 2012. The IOC acknowledged receiving the letter, but doesn’t plan to change the logo, and rejected the Iranian claims about the logo image.
Originally revealed in 2007, the 2012 Olympic logo was designed to appeal to a younger “Internet generation.” Designers revealed to the London daily “The Telegraph” in 2007 that the new design, hailed as “vibrant” and “dynamic,” is inspired by graffiti artists and is based roughly on the numbers 20 and 12. The logo has received widespread disapproval, with one Jewish citizen of the UK claiming to the BBC that the design is reminiscent of the Nazi swastika. A petition, now closed, started after the unveiling in 2007 has received 50,000 signatures demanding a change of the controversial logo.
The Olympic Games has always been a politically charged event drawing praise and protest from various interests across the globe. An Internet site started in 2009, boycottlondonolympics.com, calls for a boycott of the 2012 games citing manifold reasons that are in some cases misleading and disjointed. Designers and Olympic Committee officials involved with the 2012 logo design hoped that it would be a striking and vital logo which would fuel interest as well as financial support for the Olympics and the Paralympic games. It is unclear what Iran would gain politically by boycotting the 2012 games, perhaps hoping for support or sanctioning of the country’s stand against Israel.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has often denied publicly that the Holocaust happened and called for the destruction of Israel. Bahram Afsharzadeh, Iranian Olympic Committee Secretary General, stated in his letter to the International Olympic Committee: “There is no doubt that negligence of the issue from your side may affect the presence of some countries in the games, especially Iran, which abides by commitment to the values and principles.” However, since the Olympic logo was revealed almost four years ago, organizers are “surprised that this complaint has been made now.”
Iranian government officials argue that the Olympic logo represents a veiled pro-Israeli conspiracy. Tehran has called for the logo to be replaced and its designers “confronted.” The state further warns that Iranian athletes might be ordered to boycott the London Games if the logo isn’t changed. According to the Iranian Students News Agency, a state backed agency frequently used to convey official pronouncements, “internet documents have proved, using the word Zion in the logo of the 2012 Olympic Games,” a disgracing action against the Olympics’ valuable mottos. The letter to the IOC sent by Afsharzadeh called on other Muslim states to protest against the “racist logo” as well.
The IOC acknowledged receipt of the complaint letter, but doesn’t plan to change the logo, rejecting the Iranian claims. Iran normally threatens to boycott the Olympic Games at least once before the event. Iran boycotted the 1984 Games along with the Soviet Union, Bulgaria, East Germany, Mongolia, Vietnam , Laos, Czechoslovakia, Afghanistan, Hungary, Poland, Cuba, South Yemen, North Korea, Ethiopia and Angola.
The only measurable effects of the multiple countries’ boycott of the 1984 Games were victories for other countries in the events usually dominated by those absent, and the creation of the 1984 “Friendship Games” hosted by the countries that had boycotted that year’s Olympics. Some nations that had attended the ’84 Olympic Games sent their reserve teams, which failed to qualify for the Olympics to the Friendship Games.