Olympics grinch

There’s plenty to not like about how the Olympics have evolved: nationalism, commercialization, appropriation by vile host regimes…and now we’re going to be biting our fingernails right through February waiting for a terrorist outrage, or a Russian security outrage, or both.  They have become a hot mess, but fortunately that apostle of cool, tasteful elegance in dress, Ralph Lauren, designed the US team uniforms: understated, gracious, and confident, that’s us.

olympics2Ooooops.  (ht: Boston Globe) They do have everything, even an Austrian flag on the right shoulder (a what?).  There is a little problem with using the US flag as a shmata to be torn up and quilted into a dog’s breakfast; the flag code says:

The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, firefighters, police officers, and members of patriotic organizations.

But it’s not actually a law, so what the hell. What did I say?  Oh yeah, hot mess, your worst Christmas sweater nightmare.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

21 thoughts on “Olympics grinch”

    1. Not exactly, but ungepatchket is a fair description of these outfits. Actually, make it schrecklach ungepatchket.

  1. To be fair to Ralph Lauren, their vision would have been better realized if the USOC had accepted their proposal that all athletes should be six-foot-six 130-pound hipless wonders. Though even then you have to ask why Ralph Lauren couldn’t maintain the proportions in their jackets from their own sketches: a number of elements are out of scale, most strikingly the white stars that in the drawing accentuate the dark background but in the realized garment dominate it.

  2. Well, at least the athletes are being warned not to wear these uniforms outside the Olympic village…and, for even a greater sense of comfort, they’re going to have Ukrainian security people with them at all times…

  3. I think they are great!!! Patriotic, colorful and fun! What’s wrong with you people? These are young enthusiastic people who are happy to be representing our country! You want to constantly be seen in khaki pants and blue blazers, the American casual uniform! Ralph Lauren is a great American designer and has more talent and enthusiasm in his little finger than you have…..!!!

    1. An oddly enthusiastic comment, curiously coming from a commenter who’s never before graced this site. I’m not saying it is Astroturf … but it is consistent with Astroturf.

      PS their “Patriotic” strength lessens when they include the Austrian flag prominently placed on the upper right arm, when the right hip is oddly similar to the CSA flag, and when the designer’s brand name is positioned right over the wearer’s heart, to signify their loyalty.

    2. Well, Melba, they do look like something you could buy at a Cracker Barrel during the post-holiday clearance. So they have that going for them.

  4. I was watching one of the early morning pretend-news shows (all the gravitas of Captain Kangaroo) when they did the big “reveal” of these hideous uniforms.

    It was a real “ta-da!” moment, but then the talking heads proceeded to fawn over the wonderful designs and I thought I’d wretch. The ersatz Brooks Brothers looks of the made-in-China (such a brouhaha) uniforms from the 2012 Summer Games at the very least allowed the athletes a modicum of classic, buttoned-down self-respect.

    This court fool look is just a shame.

  5. Where are you seeing these Austrian and Confederate flags? I’m just not seeing them, in the sketches or in the photos.

    1. The Austrian civil flag is three stripes, Red/White/Red of equal width. The naval ensign and battle flag add a heraldic eagle in the center.

    1. Those are not the official Norwegian uniforms, just what their men’s curling team comes up with on their own. Four years ago they started a tradition of wacky pants and seem to have extended it to entire outfits now.


  6. But it’s not actually a law, so what the hell.

    Actually, it is a law, just one that has no penalty for failure to comply.

  7. The right state of mind to adopt for watching the Sochi opening ceremony will be the one the cognoscenti use for the Eurovision song contest. The IOC should throw in an online nationalist voting system for the worst outfits.

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