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Capitol Hill joins criticism of 'Made in China' U.S. Olympic uniforms

July 12, 2012|By Morgan Little
  • This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows U.S. Olympic athletes, from left, swimmer Ryan Lochte, decathlete Bryan Clay, rower Giuseppe Lanzone and soccer player Heather Mitts, modeling the official Team USA opening ceremony parade uniform.
This product image released by Ralph Lauren shows U.S. Olympic athletes,… (Ralph Lauren )

WASHINGTON -- Team USA may be comprised of America's best athletes, but their uniforms have a more foreign origin. The patriotic red, white and blue outfits designed by Ralph Lauren to be worn during the opening ceremony were made in China.

Questions over whether overseas companies should be assembling the U.S. team's uniforms made their way to Congress on Thursday, with House Speaker John Boehner and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responding to the revelation first reported by ABC News.

“We take great pride in our Olympic athletes and try to watch them through as many of the trials as possible. I can’t wait to stay up all night to see as much as possible of them. We take such pride and they work so hard. They represent the very best and they’re so excellent, it’s all so beautiful,” Pelosi said.

“And they should be wearing uniforms made in America,” she concluded.

Boehner, when asked about the issue, tersely said of the U.S. Olympic Committee: “You’d think they’d know better.”

But the most heated remarks on the uniforms were delivered by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves.... I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again," Reid said during a news conference.

"I hope they wear nothing but a singlet that says 'USA' on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs," he concluded.

“The U.S. Olympic team is privately funded and we’re grateful for the support of our sponsors. We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company,” the U.S. Olympic Committee told ABC News in response to criticism.

A similar controversy arose in 2008, when Reuters reported Team USA’s uniforms, again designed by Ralph Lauren, were made in China.

The current uniform controversy comes amid this week’s declaration of a “Make it in America” initiative, unveiled by Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer on Wednesday, a combination of legislation on building up infrastructure, simplifying Internet regulation, adjusting tariffs and more.

Then there's the proposed All-American Flag Act, which would mandate that American flags purchased by the federal government would be made domestically, in response to a census bureau report that revealed $3.6 million was spent on importing flags in 2011.

This year's uniforms can be seen on Ralph Lauren’s site, available as a full set for men at $1,945, and $1,473 for women.

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morgan.little@latimes.com

Twitter: @mlittledc

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