Designing the Games

September 20th, 201011:00 am @


It’s less than two weeks until the Commonwealth Games kick off in Delhi and by now the stories of graft and corruption, delayed construction, unsound stadia, resignations and recriminations are well-known. The Games have even been the identified as the main culprit in the city’s recent outbreak of dengue fever. There’s not a lot – so far – that’s been inspiring in the whole process.

Still, there are some success stories – well, one. Organisers have started sending out tickets for the 17 sports on offer during the 11 days of the Games, complete with the pictograms designed for each discipline.

Rugby Sevens, Cycling and Wrestling pictograms

Rugby Sevens, Cycling and Wrestling pictograms

Created by Bangalore design agency idiom, the pictograms hark back the iconic work of Otl Aicher for the 1972 Munich Olympics. Taking their clean and sparse cues from Aicher’s classics, they also continue the trend of later sets – such as pictograms for the Beijing and Sydney Olympics – by adding a local twist.

Delhi’s images are based on an Indian form of stencil folk art known as Sanjhi, with further local colour provided by the addition of lungis – a strip of fabric traditionally worn by athletes around the waist and legs. Since the original designs were announced at the beginning of the year, a lotus-shaped border has been added to each one, which introduces an unnecessary level of fussiness – it’s in India, we get it.

Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games logoI suspect the lotus border was added at the committee level, which is also where the Games logo appears to have come from – and something designed by a committee in India is never going to be a pleasant process, especially a committee involved in the organising of the Commonwealth Games, where nothing has ever gone smoothly.

The logo incorporates the chakra, or the wheel of life, which also sits at the centre of the Indian flag. It’s a clean, dramatic image that gets across the action of sport and the coming together of different nations. While the logo may come across as a little bland and corporate, whatever its failings, it still manages to avoid looking like Lisa Simpson performing fellatio.

Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games mascot, SheraShera, the Games mascot, is as kitsch and as child-like as sporting mascots are meant to be – think of the twee mascots for Sydney 2000. It doesn’t quite fit the theme of the rest of the branding – the athletes in the logo at least reflect the cutouts in the pictograms – and looks like it should be adorning a box of breakfast cereal. While Shera’s image is finally starting to make an appearance around the city, the sale of lucrative merchandising was delayed for months by bureaucratic inertia – leading to threats from the company involved that they’d pull out all together.

Once again, however, any failings pale into insignificance next to the complete and utter WTF-ness of the pair of cycloptic liver flukes produced for London, Wenlock and Mandeville.

So while the roads may be choked, the metro still under construction, the city’s population knocked down by an outbreak of dengue fever, the stadia still not ready and the media and politicians throwing blame around like so much mud at a kabaddi match during monsoon – at least there’s a classic set of pictograms to remember.

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