At first, it seems, no one paid much attention to the April issue of a small magazine published by foreign journalists in Japan, but then Tokyo Olympic organizers got a look at the cover.
The artwork added familiar-looking spikes to Tokyo 2020’s circular logo, transforming it into the COVID-19 virus.
On Thursday, with organizers threatening to sue and the incident swelling to international proportions, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan agreed to pull the month-old image from its website.
“Clearly the cover offended some people in our host country of Japan,” club president Khaldon Azhari said at a 90-minute news conference.
The parody struck a nerve in a country where the coronavirus outbreak has forced organizers to postpone the Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021.
The delay could cost billions of dollars and there is concern the Games might ultimately be canceled. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told the BBC on Thursday that a further postponement would probably not be possible.
“There is the clear commitment to having these Games in July next year,” he said.
When the Tokyo Olympic committee became aware of the cover for Number 1 Shimbun, the FCCJ magazine, it claimed copyright infringement. The controversy soon went global, picked up by news agencies around world.
Attorneys advised the club that its defense against copyright infringement “was not strong.” Still, Azhari added a note of defiance to his public statement.
“In the media in Japan, many of my colleagues, we feel very much annoyed by the restrictions on parody,” he said, adding: “I hope this incident will be a very good chance ... to open a good discussion about this issue.”