‘Future US Olympic uniforms to be made in USA’

Agence France-Presse
The announcement comes in the wake of bitter criticism from US lawmakers over the fact that the uniforms that US Olympians will wear at the opening and closing ceremonies in London are made in China

LOS ANGELES, United States of America – It’s too late for London, but US Olympians in 2014 will be clad in Ralph Lauren-designed uniforms made in the United States, the fashion firm and the US Olympic Committee said.

The announcement, made Friday, came in the wake of bitter criticism from US lawmakers over the fact that the uniforms that US Olympians will wear at the opening and closing ceremonies in London are made in China.

“With athletes having already arrived in London, and the apparel distribution process beginning this weekend, we are unfortunately not able to make a change for London,” USOC chief executive officer Scott Blackmun said.

“We are absolutely committed, however, to working with our sponsors to ensure that the concerns voiced are addressed. To that end, Ralph Lauren has agreed to domestically manufacture Team USA’s apparel for Opening and Closing Ceremonies for the 2014 Olympic Winter Games.”

The USOC bore the brunt of the criticism from Capitol Hill, where lawmakers often bicker over ways to keep US jobs, including in the textile industry, from heading overseas to low-wage economies like China, Vietnam and India.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was very upset by the news.

“I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves,” he said. “I think they should be embarrassed. I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them and start all over again.”

Meanwhile, Democratic US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Steve Israel sent a letter to the US Olympic Committee, demanding that all uniforms for Team USA for all future Olympics be made by American workers.

They argued that manufacturing Olympic garments in America would bring $1 billion into the US economy.

“The pride of our Olympic athletics goes hand in hand with the pride of American innovation and manufacturing,” Senator Gillibrand said in a statement. “We shouldn’t be going to the world stage with anything less. From head to toe, Team USA must be made in America.”

Representative Israel said called “disgraceful” the fact that American athletes would be wearing Chinese-made uniforms during the Olympics.

“We should be promoting American-made goods and supporting our domestic manufacturers and laborers. I urge the US Olympic Committee to reconsider their decision,” said the congressman.

A statement issued Friday by the New York-based fashion house founded by the 72-year-old Lauren confirmed the company had committed to producing Team USA’s uniforms for the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, in the United States.

“Ralph Lauren promises to lead the conversation within our industry and our government to address the issue to increase manufacturing in the United States,” the statement added.

The USOC took heat from angry fans on their Twitter site as well, and Blackmun addressed them also, saying he hoped the flap wouldn’t affect support for US competitors.

“The members of Team USA have dedicated their entire lives to training for this one moment,” Blackmun said. “They are some of the finest men and women this country has to offer and they are prepared to succeed both on and off the field of play in London.

“Our country should be proud of the individual athletes that will represent them in London and I’m hopeful that everyone will rally around Team USA.” – Agence France-Presse