A heated controversy heading into the Summer Olympics was did the U.S. Olympic Committee by allowing its athlete uniforms to be manufactured overseas betray the sanctity of the Red, White and Blue?
Some have said that the official American athletes apparel, while being designed and produced by Ralph Lauren, an iconic U.S. company, being made in China is a non-patriotic act.
Former Watertown resident Susan W. Gold, who designed Team USAs opening and award ceremony uniforms for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, says she sees both sides of the issue.
Ideally it would be nice if they were made in the U.S. said Gold, a 1963 graduate of Watertown High School. But I can see both sides of the coin.
Gold, now a retired designer who owned Lescan Design, a clothes design firm in Marblehead, Mass., shed light on the practicalities of developing and manufacturing Olympic team wear, particularly both financial and quality concerns.
A company steps up and sponsors those uniforms, she said. And theyre also in it for the advertising, like Ralph Lauren did for these games. But it really is very expensive for the company to make these outfits because they just dont do the award and parade uniforms they give them a whole wardrobe of clothing.
The controversy sparked a storm of reaction, particularly in Congress as House Speaker John Boehner said of the USOC: Youd think theyd know better, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the committee should be ashamed and all the U.S. uniforms should be burned.
While USOC spokesman Patrick Sandusky referred to the debate as nonsense, while fashion designer Nanette Lepore told ABC News: Why shouldnt we have pride not only in American athletes, but in the American manufacturers and laborers who are the backbone of our country?
I dont have a hard-core opinion of where it should be made, Gold said of Team USAs apparel.
Gold and her design team were commissioned by Champion Sportswear, Inc., for the job of outfitting the 155-member U.S. team at the 1994 Winter Games. Her team worked for more than a year to create designs that would stand up to the cold Norwegian temperatures and be appealing to television viewers and embody the spirit of the Olympic team, she said.
When I was involved, I was designing for Champion, they sponsored the design, development and cost of those uniforms, said Gold, who now resides in Colorado and visited a family cottage on the St. Lawrence River this week. And at that time, I would meet with Champion, and with them we would go to Colorado Springs and meet with the Olympic committee, which included then New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The committee sets the rules, the logo could only be so big, the one on the left chest, which was quite small.
The process then required Olympic clothing had to be made in the U.S. so it was difficult to find a factory actually at that time that could do the quality of the work, Gold said. The winter uniforms are more complicated because they have to be warm with insulation with different kinds of fabrics, but it was very expensive.
Gold said the summer uniforms are made for athletes ranging from gymnasts to body builders so their sizing is so extreme ... theyre almost making individual outfits for everybody.