Tuesday 11 December 2018

Aisling O'Connor: With McCartney, Moss and Middleton in its kit bag, can London Olympics hold a torch to Beijing?

LONDON has some task at hand with the 2012 Olympic Games this summer - Beijing is a tough act to follow. Based on the opening ceremony alone, this year’s organisers will be hard pressed to beat 15,000 multi-coloured dancers, marchers and acrobats; a giant scroll of 897 floating blocks; and a 2000 Millennium-grade fireworks display. The Chinese event was even described by film-maker Stephen Spielberg as, ‘arguably the grandest spectacle of the new millennium’.



So what does team London have up its sleeve? Well, Olympic official channels are keeping mum about the opening ceremony. What is known is that Brit director Danny Boyle is the creative director of the ceremony and David Beckham will carry the flame (as half the world carries for him).

In the meantime the organisers and the fashion community have been rallying to add a touch of glitz to capitalise on media coverage in the run-up to the Games, bringing Britain’s best fashion assets to the table: Kate Moss, Stella McCartney, Kate Middleton and UK Vogue.

As with all things British, a bolstered chest thumping attitude does the job. Who better than an ex-Beatle’s fashion designer daughter to help kit out Team GB? Stella McCartney’s brand has gone from strength-to-strength in recent years, with the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Moss, Cameron Diaz and Rihanna now regular red carpet paraders of her glad-rags.

McCartney was a logical choice to design for Team GB with Adidas, given that she has had a successful line with the sportswear brand since 2004, and her father is one of the most prolific living Englishmen.

Stella’s stamp of fashion and celebrity would have brought an element of cool prestige to proceedings, as Giorgio Armani has done for Italy and Ralph Lauren for Team USA. The results however haven’t been a complete success. Stella took it upon herself (as many artists do) to re-interpret the British flag in her designs. Uproar ensued.

After the unveiling of Team GB’s kit, athletes and media alike publicly criticised the watering down of the Union Jack to pale blue, white and blue, emblazoned across most of the apparel. There are flashes of red throughout the line but nothing like the blazing fire of anger at her fiddling with the high flying symbol of Britannica.

Fashion stands behind it however. UK Vogue has prominently featured Stella’s Team GB efforts on their website in their dedication to the London 2012 Olympics. Such is their support of the cause, British Vogue has thrown its best asset at the promotion of the Olympics – its June edition.

On her reported 57th international Vogue cover, and 32nd for the UK magazine, Kate Moss poses as a Grecian Olympian beneath the words, ‘Going for Gold’. Betwixt the covers, features include Kate in high fashion interpretations of sportswear, a profile of British Olympic hopefuls and amongst a sub-theme of the Diamond Jubilee, a little vignette on the ‘Cool Britannia’ status of Stella and her publisher husband Alasdair Willis.

Elsewhere, American Vogue is behind the Ralph Lauren 1940s newsboy capped Olympic team with a Baywatch-esque June cover featuring USA gold hopefuls Hope Solo, Serena Williams and Ryan Lochte – the ladies in ruched gold swimwear.

Italy doesn’t seem to mind its designer going off flag. Giorgio Armani has designed a 50-piece kit for the Italian team under his EA7 sportswear sub-brand, including suitcases and asymmetrically-zipped tracksuits in Italy’s traditional competitive navy. Sharing the love, Prada are sponsors and designers of their sailing team.

Out of the mainstream designer kits to look forward to include: Azerbaijan who favoured style over patriotism, outsourcing their Olympic team kit to Italian designer Ermanno Scervino; and Jamaica’s gear designed by Bob Marley’s daughter Cedella, who cites her father and Grace Jones as her inspiration.

Ireland is among many countries solely consulting with a traditional sportswear sponsor for their team. Perhaps it’s a wiser decision to let the talent and poise of the athletes do the talking, rather than quirky sartorial sideshows.

The British case is different though. Everyone is looking to London as the host for a show, and the organisers have the best promotional tool of the century, Kate Middleton. The Duchess of Cambridge brings more attention to a cause than a gaggle of Stellas, supermodels and glossy mag covers put together.

Along with Princes Harry and William, Kate is an ambassador of Team GB, and therefore has been lined up to add her celebrity and hand-shaking skills to a slew of Olympic events. Middleton sent the press into frenzy when she got her runners on for an impromptu hockey game back during a visit to the Olympic village in March.

Nothing was to prepare us for the display of ‘Best is British’ at the glitzy Olympic fundraising gala ‘Our Greatest Team Rises’ this past weekend. William flashed the royal teeth and Kate stunned in a Jenny Packham gown alongside stars of sport, TV and pop including; Melanie ‘Sporty Spice’ Chisholm in Victoria Beckham, ‘Million Pound Drop’ presenter Davina McCall, Girls Aloud singer Kimberly Walsh and legendary figure skater, Jayne Torvill. The event was a resounding success, drawing celebrity, fashion and royal watchers into sport’s arena.

Beijing might have had money and centuries-old culture coming out of its ears, but the 2012 Olympic Games is off to a good start. Stella’s perceived unpatriotic false start aside, London has fashion power players, an Oscar-winning director, a Beckham, and a globally addictive royal couple in its kit bag - the opening ceremony will no doubt be quick off the blocks in rivalling its predecessor.

Aisling tweets @ashinyoconnor



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