Well, the city of Rio de Janeiro is not getting very good press, with the Olympic Games around the corner. It’s afflicted with Zika virus fears, polluted waters, collapsing buildings and security concerns.
Rio is a magnificent city. It is overwhelmingly beautiful, crazy, energetic, disturbing and ugly – all at the same time. When I visited there I spent my whole time gawking at something – usually something (or someone) strange and wonderful. I could hardly take it all in.
For all its faults – and every city has them, including the city I live in and love very much – Rio has style. And so, apparently, will the competing sportsmen and women.
Reports are mixed, however. The designers of the Georgian team are very much under fire for their Opening Ceremony styles. In fact, there is an online petition begging the government not to embarrass them. The women’s costumes are supposed to be a nod to their traditional national costume (Chokha), with high necks, jackets and long white skirts – certainly Zika-proof. But there are political connotations; the owner of the design business is reportedly linked to the Georgian Orthodox Church, with far-right leanings. As we know, national costume often evokes patriotic sentiment and there has been a recent revival, which some Georgians are wary of.
The Iranians were far from happy with their costumes, too. I hear the designer has scrapped these rather wishy washy colors after widespread protest on social media, and is going for something much more vibrant. Color is, indeed, everything.
The Chinese have traditionally “lucky” colors and the costumes do reflect the colors of their flag; they have used them in the two previous Olympics, so they are nothing new. Nevertheless, some Chinese do liken the red and yellow to eggs and tomatoes. Yuck!
Somehow, the Swedes always manage to look cool. How do they do it?
Now for the French, designed by Lacoste. Yes, they do look sharp as a pin.
As for the Caribbean, Jamaicans seem fairly pleased with Puma’s design for its track and field athletes (the only ones we are really interested in, let’s face it). It’s fairly slick and workman/womanlike. However, there is some disappointment that the Barbadian gear is exactly the same, only with Bajan flag colors. Seems unimaginative, but never mind. I don’t know what the Jamaican Opening Ceremony costumes are like; in 2012 they were quite controversial. However, I do know that our awesome Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce will be leading the team of 63 Jamaicans into the Olympic Stadium; and I know they will do us proud.
But Cuba! The footwear designer Christian Louboutin has come up with something out of the pages of Vogue magazine. Nice!
The Canadians are getting high ratings, too. Their clothes, designed by local designer Dsquared2, look like a cross between skateboarders and preppy jackets, which somehow works. The maple leaf always looks good.
The British uniforms are not to my taste. I am not a fan of Stella McCartney’s clumsy designs. She has partnered with Adidas and the result is, to me, a mess; although I can’t comment on the men’s swimming/diving gear, which is minimal to say the least. But the symbols of the various components of the (Dis)United Kingdom are all jumbled up, a bit like Brexit. Ugh!
By the way, the very sticky issue of “branding” is going to new heights of silliness in 2016, amidst accusations of “ambush marketing.” Of course, sponsorship is very important but athletes have to be careful now not to suggest that entities that are sponsoring their personal participation (track shoes etc) are actually Olympic sponsors. Or all hell will break loose! Heaven forbid! I’m sure most sports fans couldn’t give a you-know-what about it all.
And what of those sports fans traveling to Rio? What should they wear? Some are wearing mosquito-proof clothing, like the South Korean Olympic team. Average temperatures are coolish (by Jamaican standards) at this time of year in Rio – a high of 26º C or so – so one could cover up a little without sweltering. The New Zealand team is planning several trips to the notorious favelas, so they might want to don a bullet proof jacket, too. I am only half serious saying this, and it may sound unkind; but no matter how much one prettifies them – and they do look almost picturesque, piled up on the steep hillsides overlooking the city – there is the risk of a stray bullet or two. Even from a policeman’s weapon; their police are quite militarized.
A number of companies are producing clothing lines “inspired” by the Olympics; including McDonald’s. Yes, those purveyors of extremely unhealthy foods have launched a line called Macca’s Legendswear – available tonight only on eBay! It’s a partnership with an Australian label called We Are Handsome. It actually features pictures of McMuffins and Hotcakes! Yay. Weird.
Oh, talking of Twitter and branding – did you know that the U.S. Olympic Committee has gone to the heights of ridiculousness by writing to several companies telling them they cannot use the hashtags #Rio2016 and #TeamUSA ! Well, I just used them. Oops. So when we are discussing every little detail of the Olympics on Twitter, as undoubtedly we will, we cannot use #Rio2016 or discuss #TeamUSA ?? Oh, please.
One historical note: The original Olympics were men and boys only. It was a bit like the Kingston Cricket Club.
So, let’s get some style tips… What did the competing athletes in the original Greek Olympics wear? Um…actually…nothing.
The Nude Olympics. Now, there’s a thought.