They say religion is the opium of the masses, but, in the last few months, the London Olympics have provided some great opportunities to anaesthetise the global population.
The British media may have used the Games as a way to show us all how great is Great Britain, but, interestingly enough, it is the global fashion media that has put a horrid “style emphasis” on the games.
For months newspapers, magazines and sites published reports about which designer/brand was dressing which team.
First there was Stella McCartney and her deconstructed Union Jack Adidas performance gear for the Olympic and Paralympic Team GB with bits of the flag embarrassingly (or strategically?) appearing in some cases (think about the heptathletics uniform) on erogenous zones (plus, athletes from other countries may have difficulties identifying who they are competing against as the Union Jack is chopped up and its colours have been changed, but the British media put its seal of approval on the uniforms many months ago...).
Retail chain Next focused instead on Team GB's white and gold uniforms for that touch of kitsch and glam space oddity added; Italians opted for a safe choice, Armani, who designed a dark navy and white set (some of the garments also feature inside the lyrics of the Italian hymn - ideal for the forgetful athlete...), though Prada dressed the Italian sailing team, Salvatore Ferragamo went for the Republic of San Marino (comically renamed by British Vogue as the Republic of San Remo - dear oh dear...) and Ermanno Scervino, realising that all the main jobs in Italy had been filled, defected to the the Azerbaijan Republic and created its Olympic kit.
Luxury house Hermès produced instead the kits for the French equestrian team; Ralph Lauren designed the United States team uniforms, but had them made in China, the reason for a major global debate on many fashion magazines in the last few weeks, and the outfits of Jamaica’s track and field team were made by Puma but designed by the daughter of Bob Marley, Cedella.
The list of uniforms/performance kits and fashion designers could go on forever, and while this connection proves there is a strong interest in marketing and commercialising a global sport event (it is obviously now possible to buy some of the uniforms or some garments/accessories connected to them in sport stores all over the world), this is not the only reason why this edition of the Olympic Games will be remembered as the most annoying edition from a fashion and style perspective.
There have been satellite events that linked fashion with the Games; quite a few fashion magazines dedicated shoots to the Olympics, or featured lenghty and useless pieces about which First Lady was wearing which designer at the opening ceremony (some fashion journalists must have mistaken the opening ceremony for a major political event such as Inauguration Day...), or which young East End-based designers created the looks donned by the performers in some parts of the opening night ceremony (Christopher Shannon, Michael Van Der Ham and Nasir Mazhar).
We will have to wait till 12th August to see further connections with fashion as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell and other assorted supermodels will be part of a catwalk show obviously featuring creations by British designers.
So if you ever thought the Olympic Games were about sports, you obviously got it wrong, they are in fact about fashion, style, marketing, selling strategies and politics and, in some ways, they are also about forgetting and denying there is still a major crisis out there.
From a marketing/style point of view it was particularly interesting to note how the opening ceremony marked the final successful remarketing of the Queen as a British style icon, a process that started months ago when Britain got ready to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee.
Reinvented as a cool Bond girl at the Olympic Games opening ceremony, the Queen and her wardobe of pastel dresses and horridly matching hats are now officially supercool and dissenting makes you terribly uncool.
It is also terribly uncool to heavily criticise the collage/West End musical-like opening ceremony directed by Danny Boyle, a celebration of all things British, from the NHS (shame they didn't show us the current state of the NHS...) to, erm, Cruella de Vil and Mary Poppins (I dread thinking about the copyright bill from Disney...), Harry Potter, Chariots of Fire, Hugh Grant (dear oh dear), and Trainspotting (well, obviously Boyle couldn't resist including it, but at least that added a decadent note to the entire ceremony, so I was pretty pleased about it...), but to mention just a few ones. You wonder why there was no reference to art, cultural institutions, corps de ballet (well, actually now that I think about it, we will get the corp de ballet in the closing ceremony...) or events such as the Notting Hill Carnival.
You also naturally wonder why in this tremendous pastiche of Britishness, the music compilation was - allow me the pun - pretty vacant and sanitised with no space for genuine political anthems (even "London Calling" by The Clash, decontextualised and stripped of its apocalyptic visions, is currently a cheerful touristy hymn inviting to visit the British capital...), no reference to the 2 Tone movement or to any anti-Thatcher track featuring the infamous "repetitive beats" condemned by the Criminal Justice Act (rave being reduced in the opening ceremony to a smiley face and to The Prodigy mutating into Underworld – ah, if only the music consultant for the games had been the ghost of the late John Peel or a John Peel fan...).
All this stylish mess for roughly £27 million, a massive amount that could have been saved by broadcasting the 4 minute video for 1990 hit “Good Morning Britain” by Aztec Camera feat. Mick Jones, that, though bleak, would have made a perfect and more genuine compendium of British history.
So, for the next two weeks, the entire point for most fashion sites will not be who wins any medals, who will bring home a world record or which female athletes will be able to inspire young girls to pick a sport discipline, practice it and fight through it for their rights in an equally unequal world, but will the Spice Girls sing at the closing ceremony and which designers will be included in the catwalk show featuring Kate Moss?
Obviously fashion sites and the fashion section of the major British newspapers will also tackle some major key issues such as where do you buy vitally important body compression suits and swimming suits that reshape and sculpt our bodies, and which athletes should we be copying not for their strength, skills and endurance but for their hairstyles, nail varnish and performance kits.
That's not all, we will also have to go through another two weeks of lists of Olympic pop up shops to visit, stores with Olympic windows to photograph and, yes, even more reports about Karl Lagerfeld's Olympic inspired collection at Selfridges (oooohh, T-shirts with prints of gold and silver medals and gold splattered garments, totally desirable and new...).
In a way, it's as if the media and the event organisers were functioning on one and only motto “Let them all eat the Olympics”, almost reminiscent of that “Let them all eat culture” line in Aztec Camera's “Good Morning Britain” (referred at the time to Glasgow being awarded the title of "City of Culture" in 1990).
Time will tell if these games will make or break the UK like they broke Greece, but, for the time being, we will have to survive all these fashion and style reports that do not have anything to do with history and sports, but are just trying to inject some unnecessary fashion superficiality into a sports competition.
Will we be awarded a gold medal for surviving the most insufferably fashionable Olympic Games ever? Probably not, but dissenting a bit more with such reports (or finding slightly more entertaining and intelligent connections between the Olympics, sport and fashion) or cheering up for the true meaning of the Games - think about Italy taking all three medals in the women's individual foil fencing competition on Saturday - wouldn't hurt our intelligence and would maybe finally reshift the attention towards the main meaning and purpose not of the world's largest catwalk show but of the world's largest sport event.
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos
Member of the Boxxet Network of Blogs, Videos and Photos