Reaching for the stars
Vladimir Arsentiev's 1976 logo for the Moscow Summer Olympic Games
The Moscow Summer Olympics, held in 1980, was a Games of firsts. It was the first to be held in a Slavic language speaking country, the first to be held in a communist run country, and the first to be held within the Eastern Bloc. Unfortunately, these firsts came second to the concerns around the Soviet–Afghan War that was being fought at the time. Due to this and other ‘economic’ reasons, 66 countries boycotted the event, with only 80 nations participating. This was the smallest number since 1956. However, many athletes from these nations competed under the Olympic flag.
The design of the emblem of the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow was to be found through an international design competition that was announced by the Organising Committee on June 1, 1975 with the deadline being set for January 1st 1976. The committee, through the competition guidelines, stressed the importance of the Games of the XXII Olympiad in promoting “peace and friendship among nations, and developing higher moral standards among athletes and young people.”
The essential requirements for the emblem was that it had to include the following elements: a graphic symbol that represented the host country and the Olympic rings. It was also requested that competition entries use red with a contrasting background, be ‘stable in its proportions’ and be legible when scaled down to a height of 12 millimetres.
The competition generated a large amount of interest throughout the Soviet Union and and beyond, with over 26,000 entries sent in by professional designers and amateur artists from Great Britain, Bulgaria, Hungary, the German Democratic Republic, India, Canada, Cuba, Mali, Poland, the Federal Republic of Germany and Czechoslovakia. From these entries the Olympiad-80 Organising Committee (OCOG-80) selected the work of young Soviet artist Vladimir Arsentiev.
Arsentiev’s winning design was composed of three elements: the Olympic emblem of five intertwined rings in one colour and a section of a running track rising towards a five-pointed star. This created the silhouette typical of Moscow architecture such as the Seven Sisters skyscrapers built in the Stalinist style. Arsentiev’s design was officially endorsed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) at its 78th Session in 1976.
The OCOG-80 assigned the job of working out the official colour scheme to artists Oleg Bezukhov, Anatoli Muzanov and Vladimir Kobrin and the colour research Centre of the All-Union Institute of Printing Arts. Together, they created a palette that was made up of red and blue as the primary colours; with green, light-green, yellow, orange and a bronze as secondary colours.
The Latin typeface Futuro Medium was selected as the basis of the official Olympic script with A. Muzanov and V. Kobrin being given the job of working out the Cyrillic version of the typeface and logotype.
Graduates from several art colleges took up the design of the pictographs as the theme of their dissertations. With the help of the Research Institute of Industrial Aesthetics, the Organising Committee chose the work submitted by Nikolai Belkov, a graduate from Mukhina Art School in Leningrad.
The State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries under the USSR Council of Ministers was brought in to formalise the designs under a rationalised grid system. These were distinct from previous Games due to their ‘smoother’ appearance created by the use of a small radius around angles and a change in angle from 45°-90° to 30°–60°. These were produced white on black, and outline versions.
While the design policy of Moscow 1980 did little to move on the pioneering work of Otl Aicher and Dept. XI’s Munich ‘72 or Georges Huel’s work for Montreal ‘76, it did show that it was possible to develop a cohesive design policy for the Games through a decentralised network of designers and artists, type specialists, design students and institutions.
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