July 18, 2012 --
Designed by Ralph Lauren, the uniforms that the U.S. Olympic team will be wearing to the Summer Olympic Games in London have stirred controversy. It's not the style that has disappointed; the uniforms borrow the colors of the American flag, red, white and blue. It's not even the fact that the athletes will be sporting berets at the opening ceremony of an Olympic Games on European soil. Rather, the fact that the uniforms were manufactured in China has led some lawmakers to criticize the U.S. Olympic Committee's decision. China has responded to the criticism by labeling it irresponsible and a product of the U.S. political climate, but Lauren has promised that the next batch of uniforms for the 2014 games will bear a "Made in the USA" label. The controversy is a reminder of just how much pride a country takes in its Olympic display. In this slideshow, preview the uniforms athletes from around the globe will be wearing when they take the field in London in just a matter of weeks.
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There might be folks in the United States who have a problem with a uniform manufactured in China. But so far no one in China has appeared to complain about what their athletes will be wearing to this year's Olympics -- a uniform designed by a U.S.-based company. Nike created the lineup for China's athletes competing in archery, basketball, beach volleyball, tennis, track and field, weightlifting and wrestling, according to the sportswear manufacturer's website. The design of the uniforms is inspired by China's culture and calligraphy. All of the uniforms are inscribed along the neckline with the words, "Arise, March On," derived from the lyrics of the national anthem of the People's Republic.
Nike also designed some of the uniforms that Russia's athletes will be wearing to the Olympics in London. Made for Russia's track and field team, the uniforms are lightweight and made of recycled materials. According to Nike's website, the uniform is modeled on the Russia's cultural imagery heritage, including "Constructivism art style and Soviet-era posters." A two-headed eagle crest derived from the coat of arms of Russia appears on the front of every uniform.
With the United Kingdom hosting the Olympics this year, the host nation turned to Adidas, a German sportswear manufacturer, to create uniforms for their athletes. Crafted by Stella McCartney, daughter of legendary performer Paul McCartney, the uniforms are of a style that the designer calls "untraditionally British." Like their American counterparts, the British uniforms have come under fire. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games is currently investigating whether the uniforms were manufactured in "sweatshop" conditions in facilities in Indonesia, with workers forced into 65-hour work weeks for less than a dollar an hour. With the uniform incorporating a new take on the Union Jack, the design has also drawn fire for looking "more Scottish than British," according to BBC News.
Germany's track and field team also turned to U.S. sporting specialist Nike to design their uniforms. The lightweight sportswear features the colors of the German flag. Like the Russian uniform, Germany's athletes sport a badge with their coat of arms, in this case a black eagle.
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The brainchild of Japanese fashion designer Hiroko Koshino, the uniforms that the Japanese Olympic team will wear to London were manufactured by ASICS, an athletics company based out of Kobe, Japan. All of the uniforms borrow from the Japanese flag, with a stylized take on the rising sun.
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Like their British brethren, Australia's uniforms were designed by Adidas. Featuring fluorescent "acid buzz" trimmings and hidden Kangaroo prints, the uniforms to be worn by all 800 of the athletes on Australia's national team are bright green and gold. Adidas promises the uniforms will be stronger, lighter and cooler than the ones worn by the Aussie team in 2008.
PHOTOS: Olympic Tech Faster Than Skin
Olympic-bound athletes competing in track and field, soccer and basketball show off Brazil's Olympics uniforms here. Modeled after the colors of Brazil's flag, the uniform was created by Nike, which will be outfitting all Olympians on the Brazilian national team.
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To figure out precisely which fabric, even which fabric dye, would make the most aerodynamic ski suit possible, the aerospace engineer and high-performance director for the U.S. ski and snowboard team put a sensor on Bode Miller to gather more than a million data points as he swooped down the mountain.
“It’s the same technology used in missile guidance systems,” Troy Flanagan, the engineer, told Outside Magazine.
Certain fabrics can increase speed as can the way they are layered, Flanagan said. Apparel sponsor Spyder took the data into the design room and incorporated the tech with some patriotic inspiration.
“What’s patriotic, but also fast and dynamic?” Matt Strackbein, Spyder’s production manager, told the Baltimore Sun. “The Star-Spangled Banner. The Olympics are a time when people are not afraid to literally wear the flag.”
The team unveiled the white and, yes, star-spangled, one-piece suits during training runs. They’ll make their competition debut when men’s downhill starts on Sunday.
The skintight, flexible suits feature stitching along the back to reduce drag. The tightness enhances compression in order to reduce muscle fatigue and soreness.
“We test these ski suits in wind tunnels, the same way they test cars,” Strackbein said. The skiers “get in a tucked position and we turn the wind up to 75 miles an hour.”
Photo: U.S. skier Bode Miller takes part in a Men’s Alpine Skiing Downhill training session at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Feb. 6, 2014, before the start of the Sochi Winter Olympics. Credit Olivier Morin