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The big debate: Is Team GB’s kit one to unite a nation?

15:59 10 May 2012

Phillips Idowu and Jessica Ennis (right) with Stella McCartney at Adidas

Phillips Idowu and Jessica Ennis (right) with Stella McCartney at Adidas' unveiling of the Team GB kit.

PA Wire/Press Association Images

It aims to be the uniform to unite a nation. MICHAEL BAILEY looks into Team GB’s Olympic dress code to see if there is an advantage to be had…

Never mind the competitors’ long journey to book a place at this summer’s Olympics – the big question this month is whether Team GB’s 2012 kit really is fit for purpose.

Sure, it is only a side issue ahead of the Games compared to Jessica Ennis’ preparations or whether Usain Bolt is going to be in the right form to crack 9.4 seconds – but few things make better debates.

Much like the 2012 Olympic logo released in 2007 – yes, that is five years ago – the highly Union Flag-influenced design received mixed reviews when it was unveiled in March. No doubt its designer, Stella McCartney, was expecting that.

The lack of red is an obvious difference to past GB kits and a step too far for some. But you can understand McCartney’s argument that when you have a collection of countries running in red, white and blue it can be hard to tell your French, Americans and Luxembourgish apart.

Let’s just hope no one else has gone for a little light blue number in 2012.

The prospective competitors are, of course, all happy with the new Adidas kit – and given sport often blurs the boundaries between ability and psychology, there is always a nod to that intangible link between looking good and throwing further, running faster or jumping higher.

McCartney said: “You have to make the athletes feel like they are in the height of their performance. That they are wearing technical gear that is absolutely going to shave off the tiniest part of a second.

“Something that came across early on was that they want to feel and look like they are a team and there is such power in that.

“When I talked to the athletes I asked them, ‘Do you feel different when you look good, do you think it enhances your performance?’ and they all said yes.”

The technological aspect was Adidas’ job, and the German manufacturer says it has used its knowledge to make the kits breathable, the footwear as light as possible and to ensure the athletes are streamlined.

However, Adidas may yet be asked to make the kit more ethical. An inquiry is currently looking into allegations the Team GB kit is being “manufactured in ‘slave labour’ sweatshops in Indonesia, which breach the human rights of the workers”. Not the best idea for a London Games aiming to be the most ethical ever.

There was one athlete willing to acknowledge a negative view of the Team GB kit – even if it was in his own, typically dry way: “Oh dear, the Olympic kit!” tweeted cyclist Bradley Wiggins. That from someone who arguably has his eyes focused more sharply on the Tour de France this year.

However, heptathlete Kelly Sotherton did hit the nail on the head for every Team GB hopeful currently sweating on their training plans, preparations, diets and fitness programmes ahead of the summer.

“I don’t care what the kit looks like as long as I get the chance to actually compete in it!” she said. Perfectly put.

These kits bookmark a time and a place. It was the likes of Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell that made the design effort for the 1992 Games in Barcelona one of my favourites.

And this year’s kit? I can’t help thinking it looks a bit like a logo for a bank.

But whether we like the kit now or not is irrelevant.

It will be the performances by the competitors wearing the Team GB outfits in venues and arenas across London and beyond that will really decide whether the sight of the 2012 version brings a warm, fuzzy feeling and memories of a golden summer.

What do you think?

Brian Coniam, 50, from Norwich who works for Anglian Water, said: “The design is clearly British and it is effective in creating a sense of national identity.”

Zach Howe, 16, a Norwich City College student from Old Catton, said: “It is important that the Olympic kit clearly represents Britain but the new Team GB kit just doesn’t stand out. Britain needs a kit that is clear and effective.”

James Davies, 16, a student from Norwich, said: “I think it is important that Britain has a good image at the 2012 Olympics and the new GB kit stands out enough to do this.”

Paul Woodard, 42, a health and safety con-sultant from Thorpe St Andrew, said: “I think it is important that the Olympic kit functions in the same way as the British flag – it achieves this.”

Nick Bingham, 40, who is self-employed and who regularly visits Norfolk from Sussex, said: “The women’s athletics kit is too sexually orientated and is degrading. The flag on the front of the kit also looks very Scottish.”

Dawn Bingham, 41, a housewife who grew up in Norwich but now lives in Sussex, said: “I think it is far too blue. You wouldn’t know from a distance if you were watching a French competitor.”

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