Sports and fashion have constantly gone hand-in-hand. And if the sporting event combines athletes from all over the world, it does notget larger than this. Be it the winter or the summer events, for over a century, Olympic Games have captured public imagination like no other sports event.
The Olympic Games don’t merely provide a platform for the best athletes globally to showcase theirsuperior skills but also for countries to showcase their ascendance on a world stage. In the Berlin Games of 1936, the Nazi’s plan of showcasing Aryan ascendance was thwarted by the African-American athleteJesse Owens by winning four gold medals and turning into the hero of the games. In the Romangames of 1960, South Africa, for its racist policy regime, was bootlegged from the games and thus the country was only able to produce a comeback in the 1992 Barcelona games. Montreal games in 1976 was another politicallycharged sporting event with thirty African countries boycotting the games to protest the inclusion of New Zealand. Taiwan also withdrew as a results of Communist China’s pressure on the host country. The Moscow games in 1980 saw a higher magnitude of protests, with over sixty countries, West Germany & Japan boycotting the games to protest Soviet Union’s invasion of Asian nation. The Sydney 2000 games, the largest Olympic event till date in terms of scale, with over 10 thousand athletes collaborating, was closely watched not only as a result of its scale but as a result of its succession to the 1996 Atlanta games, which witnessed a terrorist bombing. The event went without a hitch and revived the public faith in the Olympic movement. Finally, with China organizing the event in 2008, there was public outcry regarding the oppressive policies of the government. There was also the concern that the games could be used as a propaganda tool. These instances showcase thatnotwithstanding the size, Olympic Games do witness their share of politics. However, the heritage of the athletics is that the unyielding human spirit and our ability to triumph against all odds is still there.
Another attribute that has stayed on with the event is evolving fashion trends among the global athletes. Thefact that the whole world is glued to their TV screens throughout the length of the games brings out the best in not only the athletes but also in their designers. From Levi Strauss, Ralph Lauren, and Roots (Team USA), to Giorgio Armani (Team Italy) and Willy Bogner (Team Germany), the celebrated designers are unable to stay secluded from the attraction of the Olympic Games. This has resulted in a range of rather spectacular uniforms that is both stylish and utilitarian. A recap of rich history of the games showcases how fashion has evolved in each of these games, reflective of the life and time of that era:
Tennis – in conjunction with swimming, tennis has been one of the foremost sports involving fashion. With its startin Paris games in the early 1900, Charlotte Cooper, fully draped in a white uniform, won gold for England in each of the singles and doubles event. Then came the German legend Steffi Graf, who not only won gold once the sport formally came back to summer athletics in 1988 but also bought the tennis skirt in fashion in the process. From 2000 started the Williams sisters’ era, both of who, have dominated not only the doubles event but also the singles events, with every sister winning gold on separate occasions in the games. The sisters have together been responsible for not only winning several medals but also for continuing the trend of fashionable uniforms in Tennis Athletics
Athletics – a sport that although has seen minor modifications over the years involving uniforms, still continues to entrance the audience like no alternative event. Anoptimum combination of strength and talent, the winner gets the rightful title of the ‘fastest man/woman alive’. In conjunction with that title the athlete’s uniform additionally gets the attention. From the all-white uniform of Jesse Owens in the Berlin event of 1936, to the all ‘reds’ of Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis inthe Korean games of 1988, to the multi-coloured uniform of the “lightning bolt“ Usain Bolt, who has been a dominant force in the games since the 2000s. In the last few years, Bolt has adopted Jamaica’s national colours as his signature vogue in uniformSwimming
Swimming – since its origin as a competitive sport within the Olympics in Stockholm in 1912, swimming has beenone of the most progressive sports involving fashion. A perfect example of ‘form meets feature’, swimming itself mandates that uniforms do not impede the swimmer’s performance. Thus it’s no surprise that the US national swim team in London 1948, Janet Evans in Seoul 1988, Federica Pellegrini in London 2012, and thenceforth the foremost laurel winning Olympian, Michael Phelps have all showcased a swimmer’s grace with ample amounts of ‘form meets fashion’
Pole Vault – whereas the sport may not conjure photos of fashionistas and in itself took time to take-off, it came into its own within the Korean metropolis in 1988, with all three medals progressing to the Russian state. With women athletes joining the fray in Sydney 2000, the event witnessed diversification, both in form of the two genders as well as in form of fashion
Wrestling – one of the events of ancient Olympics, wrestling has seen its share of evolution in the uniform’s department. From a single event format in the 1896 games featuring the Greco-Roman style with no weight limit to the 1936 Berlin games in which the Jewish-Hungarian athleteKárolyKárpáti beat Nazi Germany’s Wolfgang Ehrl for gold in the light-weight wrestling event, the event gained back the prominence it originally commanded. The fashionable uniforms closely followed this transformation. From the all black uniforms of 1936 and 1960 to the all red uniform worn first by ArmenNazaryan in Atlanta 1996 and thenceforth by the 2-time Olympian MijaínLópez, wrestling uniforms have evolved to help the wrestlers keep nimble on their feet whereas outwitting their opponents during a show of strength.With the Rio Olympics already started, get into the Olympics spirit and cheer for your favourite sportsperson and enjoy the beautifully illustrated look at Olympic fashion from Shopalike.