Montreal Gazette

Olympic fashion fail for Canada — again?



Canada is having a rough time. Once the promised land of oilsands, maple syrup, and kinda-free health care, we're now a world leader in new COVID cases, money laundering, and overpriced houses. But, with the Tokyo Olympics (maybe) around the corner, the Great White North has a chance to redeem itself on the internatio­nal stage — to show other countries who we really are.

Sure, the medal tallies are important. But the world's most-viewed sporting event is ultimately about spectacle, which means it's also the world's mostviewed fashion event. The outfits matter, which is why nations stage elaborate reveals every two years. A country's Olympic uniforms speak to who they are as a people, as well as their geopolitic­al and economic status. There's even an academic term for it: “fashion diplomacy.” Unfortunat­ely, Canada's 2021 outfits only have one message: We're a joke.

Picture it. The Opening Ceremony begins, with a record number of viewers since half the world is still locked in their homes. The Japanese wow with a world-class artistic program, followed by the Parade of Nations. To the atrophied masses in sweatpants, the athletes on TV look like real-life superheroe­s. Finally, Canada's big moment arrives. Our team enters the arena and … how odd. The world is confused. Are those athletes, or lost tourists wearing children's clothes?

In time we recover from the sight of our nation's strongest men and women in rubbery fire chief raincoats with fanny packs slung over their shoulders. Our podium uniforms, simple lightweigh­t knit jackets and track pants, do what Canadians do best: not offend anyone. Surely Team Canada is saving its best look for the Closing Ceremonies.

Again, we wait excitedly for our turn in the Parade of Nations. The Americans don sleek white Ralph Lauren uniforms that scream power and wealth.

They look like Imperial Stormtroop­ers on vacation in Aspen.

The Australian­s, just showing off now, sport handsome gold and green kits.

The announcer bellows Canada's name, but something has gone terribly wrong. We're horrified to realize our athletes are wearing Canadian tuxedos, but not just any Canadian tuxedos. Graffitied Canadian tuxedos.

There was a time when Canada could have lived this down, but that time isn't now. The Games haven't even started and the internatio­nal community is already circling our sad, unfashiona­ble carcass. The uniforms are so cringey there are calls to cancel the Olympics.

“This is the gang that comes after you if you say you tried watching Schitt's Creek but couldn't get into it,” said New York Times culture writer Dave Itzkoff in a tweet.

Sports journalist Jenna Harner wrote, “Ahhh yes Canada going with the `20-something girl at brunch' (look) for the closing ceremonies this Olympics.”

Even The Guardian took a shot at us, writing: “The athletes will be clad in graffiti-splashed denim jackets that would have been very current at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona or on Degrassi Junior High at its peak.”

This isn't the first time our Olympic outfits have gone wrong. When Calgary hosted the Games in 1988, we showed up in giant white cowboy hats and an alarming amount of fringe. Four years later, in 1992, we arrived in Barcelona wearing a garish shade of yellow and high-waisted shorts in a pastel print that can only be explained by hard drugs. In 1996, we visited Atlanta dressed for The Great Depression in frumpy beige suits and fedoras.

In 2021, does Canada deserve better than uniforms that look like they were vandalized by angry teens with Sharpies? Not really. If Olympic uniforms serve to project our national image, these garments actually nail it. Quite plainly, we're a confused country that has a lot of growing up to do before we can have nice things. Our health care system is in tatters, we can't seem to effectivel­y oversee or fund our own military, and we've managed to lock at least two generation­s out of home ownership while economical­ly and psychologi­cally battering them with never-ending shutdowns. That's just the short list.

What better than shoddy denim jackets to represent a country where Olympic athletes have to resort to begging for money on social media to buy new running shoes? Our medal bonuses are significan­tly less than those of the U.S., Singapore, Italy, Russia, France, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Hungary, among others. We allow many of our top athletes to live in poverty.

Are our Tokyo Olympics uniforms juvenile? Yes.

Do they lack a coherent vision? Also yes.

Should Canadians be embarrasse­d? Probably.

But do they accurately represent Canada? Absolutely.

 ?? FINN O'HARA / TEAM CANADA ?? Olympian Kylie Masse sports Team Canada's look for the 2021 Games, which has already drawn harsh criticism.
FINN O'HARA / TEAM CANADA Olympian Kylie Masse sports Team Canada's look for the 2021 Games, which has already drawn harsh criticism.

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