Living in a former Olympic city and the birthplace of the Games, it’s inevitable that comparisons are made between what Beijing presented Friday night and Athens 2004. Everyone has an opinion, so I won’t open or enter a cliché debate because it’s apples and oranges, really — two very different countries, two very different cultures and two very different visions. Forget about it! What about the clothes?
Olympic fashion has gotten serious in recent years. It’s not just tracksuits and tennis shoes anymore, and it’s not always about traditional dress and national colors. It’s branding, endorsements and, for the first time this year, close-ups on footwear. It’s name brand designers called upon to dress the national team from head to toe and make a statement, hopefully good.
The announcement of a nation in the stadium is a lot like a model’s first appearance on the runway. Everyone wants to see what they’re wearing.
Gold medal fashion
Most stylish male: The Netherlands
From head to toe, the men looked jaunty and modern with a splash of color. Loved the shoes too! From a distance it looked like they were wearing spats.
Most stylish female: France
Everything from the wide leather belts, navy berets and smart matching purses. Impressive.
Best dressed team: New Zealand
The stark contrast of dark colors with a traditional leaf worn by both male and female team members made the Kiwis stand out in a sea of white and presented a united front…and the cape was a nice touch.
Best dressed male: United Kingdom
UK newspapers blasted their countrymen for looking like outdated boaters, but they looked sharp and comfortable.
Best dressed female: Sweden
Paying homage to their hosts in qipao frocks in national colors, it was tasteful and fun without being insulting.
Best pants: Italy
Can cargo pants be tailored? If anyone can do it, it’s the Italians.
Best skateboarder imitation: Switzerland
Hats (err, pants) off to them for showing some leg, though poor Roger had to wear that ugly polo shirt.
Most likely to end up on a hamburger: China
No disrespect to the host nation, but the first thing that comes to mind is mustard and ketchup.
Most likely to burn your retinas: Spain
My eyes, my eyes!
WTF award: Australia
Officials defended the non-national colored frumpy tracksuits as “hip” and what the young kids want these days, even going so far as to criticize the Americans for “putting 18-year-olds in blazers and Great Gatsby hats.” But as James from Beijing said in his comments here, anyone using the word “hip” to describe fashion today is obviously out of touch. Take a look at the bottom photo to see what the original opening ceremony outfit looked like before it was changed.
The original design
Don’t love it, don’t hate it: USA
Crowds are historically split on what the Americans wear — some love it, some hate it. Whatever anyone thinks this year, it was undeniably classic Ralph Lauren style.
Sleek, casual wear
Beyond the clothes, I noticed that different nations had different ways of taking the ceremonious walk around the stadium. Some segregated men and women, some had orderly rows, some looked like ants scattering in a panic.
The Americans hugged the outer ring but stayed within the lines as the contingency snaked around; Italians went everywhere and anywhere they pleased, including into the nation’s lineup behind them as each member tried to get on TV. The Germans were the only ones carrying teammates on their shoulders and doing the wave. Great fun!
Gold medal emotion
The best part of any Olympic Games is raw emotion. Germany had tons of it last night, and so did Spain.
There’s a certain pride you feel when athletes from your country enter the stadium, and the more jubilant they are, the prouder you feel. As they look up to greet the prime minister, president or king/queen and wave flags at each other, there’s a love and a desire for them to succeed because they are young and full of hopes and dreams; they represent you and your nation and everything good it could be. And no matter what conflicts exist, the world comes together in friendship if only for a minute and peace somehow seems possible.
All photos from Getty Images, except original Australian uniform from China Daily and casual wear from Ralph Lauren