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Opening-Day Duds Have Worn Thin

Some U.S. Olympic athletes are tired of an American tradition: same old boring marching uniforms.

September 15, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SYDNEY, Australia — Another Olympic opening ceremony, another predictable outfit for the U.S. athletes.

Basketball player Teresa Edwards, competing in her fifth Olympics at age 36, knew what to expect. "They're all the same. Same old shoes. Same old skirt. Same hat," she said. "We should change it up." Same old red, white and blue. Slacks for the men, skirts for the women, jackets for both.

"And always a hat," Edwards' teammate Dawn Staley said. "It's that Sunday churchgoing hat that we haven't grown up to wear yet."

About the only thing that seems to change is the hat style--white straw was the choice for the opening ceremony today in Sydney--and the hemline on the women's skirts, long and blue this time, paired with, naturally, a red blazer, said the athletes.

"It's a nice sporting look. A good all-American look," said Sandy Baldwin, Chef de Mission for the U.S. team and a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee board of directors since 1985. The marching outfits were designed by Adidas with input from a USOC apparel committee that included athletes, Baldwin said. But the committee wasn't offering the media any sneak previews.

"One thing you have to think about is we have athletes of literally every size--from tiny athletes who would not even wear a size 1, to some of our women athletes who are 6-2, 6-3," she said. "You've got a whole variety, and the same with the men.

"You have to consider a number of things, like how it's going to show on television. And we also know people want to see red, white and blue."

So American viewers yawn every four years--the Winter Olympics outfits tend to be only slightly more interesting--and the athletes just look forward to changing clothes.

"I tell you, it's an outfit that only looks good when 500 other people have it on," said Lisa Leslie, a 6-foot-5 basketball player who has modeled professionally. "Trust me, you won't see me walking around by myself in that. After-hours outfit? I don't think so."

Staley probably put it best. "Pretty much 'Brady Bunch,' " she said. "It's not something you want to wear to anything other than the opening ceremonies--and that's putting it kindly."

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