An American delegation dressed in clothes “made in China?” The sports attire of the summer games gave off the effect of Ralph Lauren's designs… created in China. It was too late for London to stifle the debate, which had already surfaced over the Atlantic after the revelation that the New York enterprise had made the official uniforms of the American team in China.
As the athletes arrived in Great Britain and the distribution of uniforms started last weekend, Scott Blackmun, president of the United States Olympic Committee said, “We are unfortunately too late to make a change for London."
The 530 athletes will therefore dress to represent their country in navy blue double-breasted blazers, cream shirts and pants (skirts for the women) and assorted berets. On the outside is the polo player logo, the emblem of the designer, and on the inside, the inscription “Made in China.”
“We are absolutely committed… to working with our sponsors to ensure that the concerns voiced are addressed,” added the responsible party, adding that the outfits for the winter games’ ceremonies in Sochi, Russia will certainly be made on American soil.
The decision takes place after beginning with intense controversy. “Our Olympians don’t train their entire lives to don Chinese uniforms,” declared Chuck Schumer, the Democratic senator from New York who most recently entered the debate. He was in favor of another designer, Hickey Freeman, who has committed himself to producing the uniforms between now and the end of the month for the opening ceremony.
Harry Reid, the head of the Democratic majority in the Senate and a senator of Nevada, said on July 12 that the Olympic Committee “should be ashamed” of such a decision and encouraged them to “put [the uniforms] in a big pile and burn them.” In a more measured statement, the Democratic head of the Chamber, Nancy Pelosi, was certain herself that the American athletes “represent the best… and they should wear uniforms made in America.”
Parochialism, a Blasphemy of the Olympic Spirit
If put in the context of the election and national issues – like Barack Obama accusing his adversary Mitt Romney of cutting U.S. jobs while running Bain Capital – the debate is not to the liking of the second world power.
“This is a parochial nationalistic attitude, a blasphemy on the Olympic spirit and a show of ignorance,” declared a Chinese news agency in a statement on July 16.
While the unemployment rate in the United States stagnates slightly below eight percent, six Democratic senators announced a desire to present a law this week that would be entitled the “Team USA Made in America Act of 2012,” which would require that the uniforms worn during the opening ceremony of the games be made in the United States.
“The pride in our Olympic athletes goes hand in hand with the pride of American innovation and manufacturing,” added one of the proposition’s bearers, Kirsten Gillibrand. “We shouldn't be going to the world stage with anything less. From head to toe, Team USA must be made in America.”
Not all are convinced. Elva Ramirez of the Wall Street Journal wrote in her blog: “The controversy… has put a spotlight on the state of the U.S. fashion industry… Producing clothes stateside or shipping them offshore is one of simple economics. Producing clothing within the U.S... [has] higher costs.” In summing up this idea, the journalist notes that “made in America” is fragile in itself, in the sense that the chief materials have a high chance of coming from abroad.
Edited by Tom Proctor