After the horsemen, the stilt walkers, the fire eaters and the tap dancers, it
was the turn of the athletes to show off their colors in the opening ceremony.
The demands of fashion sit uneasily with the necessity to design a uniform that
will suit every shape of athlete, from basketball player to gymnast to
weight lifter. And the tension tells. The countries that do best in the clothing
stakes are those that have a national dress African countries, notably
Nigeria, Lesotho and Swaziland, showed off their traditional clothing. Some teams
compromised by sending out a couple of athletes in folk costume and the rest in
what might easily pass for air crew uniforms. The handsome man in a short
embroidered purple velvet coat and fairy-tale beautiful girl in cream silk and
lace who led the Georgians only emphasized the dowdiness of the others on the
For everyone else style can be dangerous territory, as the Japanese demonstrated with their
bizarre multicolored tie-dyed cloaks. The Austrians looked as if they'd
prepared for the wrong Games and had come in their winter uniforms. The Russian
and Polish teams seemed to have bought their wardrobes from the cheapest
outfitters in downtown Smolensk or Gdansk. The winners in the fashion stakes
were definitely, and hardly surprisingly, the Italians, who went for simple,
classic style with a twist. Both men and women wore elegantly cut dark jackets
over trousers or skirts in half a dozen bold colors. The ensemble effect was
striking and bright while still looking classy.
But the most impressive outfit of the night was the smallest. The team from
Mongolia was led into the arena by their flag carrier, heavyweight judoka
B. Bat-Erdene, who simply wore a generous G-string.