U.S. Olympians' outfits are fine

RALPH LAUREN / Associated Press
RALPH LAUREN / Associated Press
Posted: July 19, 2012

Jingoism that should remind Americans of the silliness that had people calling french fries "freedom fries" because France didn't support the U.S. invasion of Iraq has members of Congress screaming bloody murder because the U.S. Olympics team's parade uniforms were made in China.

"They should take all the outfits, put them in a big pile and burn them, and start all over," puffed Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).

In a rare display of bipartisanship, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said, "You'd think they'd know better."

So much for the spirit of peace and mutual understanding that the Olympic Games are supposed to foster among athletes and their home countries.

China's state-run Xinhua News Agency condemned the "narrow nationalism and ignorance" of the U.S. lawmakers. Other critics have correctly blasted the flap as much ado about nothing — and perhaps more to do with election-year posturing.

The U.S. Olympic Committee, unlike most of its foreign counterparts, gets no government funding to support the team. So why are the federal legislators even questioning where designer Ralph Lauren had the uniforms made?

Ralph Lauren, an Olympic sponsor, offers the clothing to athletes for free. It's not surprising that it had the stylish blue blazers sewn in China, where apparel can be made at a much lower cost.

In fact, just about everything that the U.S. Olympians will don for the opening ceremonies — neckties, scarves, and shoes — reportedly was made overseas.

But so what? According to the American Apparel and Footwear Association, 98 percent of the clothing sold in the United States is manufactured overseas.

The U.S. uniforms for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 games in Vancouver were also manufactured abroad, but there was no brouhaha like this then.

It's likely too late to remake this year's outfits in the United States, which could cost twice as much to produce here. But Ralph Lauren has surrendered to pressure, waved the red, white, and blue flag, and promised that all future Team USA uniforms designed by the firm, beginning with the 2014 Winter Olympics, will be manufactured in this country.

Overzealous lawmakers nonetheless have introduced a senseless, sentimental piece of legislation in Congress called the Team USA Made in America Act of 2012, which would mandate head-to-toe made-in-America gear for all U.S. Olympians.

Like so many who watch the Olympics every four years, the lawmakers have gotten so caught up in its being a competition they forget the games more importantly are about the countries' mutual respect.

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