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Side by side comparison showing the Theatre de Liege logo (left) and the 2020 Olympic logoGeert Vanden Wijngaert / Yuya Shino

Japanese designer Kenjiro Sano rejects claims he copied the emblem of a Belgian theatre when he created the official logo for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

At a news conference on Wednesday, Sano said his design was original and he never saw the emblem for the Theatre de Liege before creating his logo.

Belgian designer Olivier Debie has asked the International Olympic Committee and Tokyo Olympic organizers to change the logo because it bears too much resemblance to his emblem for the theatre in Liege.

"I am extremely surprised to hear the remarks of the Belgian designer," Sano said, adding he was saddened and shocked by claims he plagiarized. "I would like to take this opportunity to state that his claims are completely groundless."

Sano said his geometric design uses a widely available font for the letter "T," which stands for Tokyo, team, and tomorrow. He said the red circle in the logo was inspired by designer Yusaku Kamekura's emblem for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

The 2013 logo for the theatre has a similar "T" in white against a black backdrop.

Tokyo organizers said they researched trademarks inside Japan and abroad before deciding on the logo. The emblem for the Belgian theatre is not a registered trademark.

Hidetoshi Maki, the executive director of marketing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, said sponsors were already using the logo.

The logo controversy is another setback for Tokyo organizers, who last week apologized to the IOC over the scrapping of the original design for the Olympic stadium amid public criticism over the cost.

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