At a grand ceremony at the Tower of London this morning, amid much fanfare and lycra, the official TeamGB kit for the Olympic and Paralympic Games were unveiled.
The adidas kits have been designed by Stella McCartney, and with the specific needs of 26 Olympic Sports to cater for, from wrestling to weightlifting to canoe slalom, it was quite an undertaking.
The kits the home athletes will wear at this summer's Games are dominated by dark indigo blue, with inspiration taken from the union flag. Jessica Ennis, Phillips Idowu and Ellie Simmonds showcased the performance range including competition kit, training wear, the presentation suit, footwear and accessories.
Of particular interest is the TeamGB football kit. If the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish football associations have their way, this will be the only time a Great British team enters the competition, making the kit quite the collectors' item.
In comparison to previous kits, it feels less obviously British, with the union flag not as dominant as it has been. Designer McCartney, who was in attendance at this morning's event, said the kits combined style with performance and would bring the GB team under one look and feel.
"Something that was very important to me was to try and use that very iconic image (the union flag) but to dismantle it and try to soften it, break it down and make it more fashionable in a sense.
"I think that it's so recognisable that I was able to play around with it a little bit and take it out of its comfort zone. Dismantle it, break it up into different parts and different colour forms and then bring it all back together and bring it back into the flag."
Talking about the technical side of the kit, McCartney, who studied at Central Saint Martins and is the daughter of Beatle Paul, said performance was essential.
"You have to make the athletes feel like they are in the height of their performance. That they are wearing technical gear that is absolutely going to shave off the tiniest part of a second.
"Talking to the athletes, something that came across early on was that they want to feel like that are a team and they want to look like that are a team and there is such power in that.
"When I talked to the athletes I asked them: 'Do you feel different when you look good, do you think it enhances your performance?' and they all said 'yes, when I feel like I look good then I perform better.'
"You shouldn't have to sacrifice style for sport."
Speaking specifically about cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy, McCartney said: "I spoke to Sir Chris Hoy and said, 'what can I do to help in any way?' And he said, 'I just want to look cool'."
Triple-jump gold medal hope Idowu said: "All eyes will be watching London 2012 so every little detail matters. I love what Stella has done with the design.
"Looking good is psychologically important but my sprint suit is also technically advanced, so not only do I look good but I also have confidence in the technology in the kit."
The response has not been all positive with one prominent member of the British team, Bradley Wiggins, a three-time Olympic champion, tweeting: "Oh dear, the Olympic kit!!"
Lightweight and breathable fabrics have been used for the kits to help cool and stabilise the body say adidas. Meanwhile the distinctive red footwear the athletes will be wearing will on average be 25 per cent lighter than those produced for the Beijing Games, it said.
The official kits for six sports will be made available for public purchase from April. They are basketball, football, athletics, swimming, cycling and tennis.
But if the merchandise does fly off the shelves as is both hoped and expected, don't expect the profits to make their way back down to the grassroots of any of these Olympic sports.
The British Olympic Authority sold their marketing rights to the London 2012 Organising Committee, known as Locog, back in 2004, for £30m, a decision they very much regret.
Adidas have proved to be intensely protective of their relationship with TeamGB, to the point where members of the team who have their own sponsorship deals with other brands, such as cyclist Mark Cavendish with Nike, may yet appear barefoot at medal ceremonies.
At an event to unveil the Olympic Torch Relay route on Monday, for which torchbearers will wear white adidas tracksuits-cum-pyjamas, a soldier injured in Afgahnistan had to wear white stickers covering the logo on the trainers he had worn for the occasion.
Now, despite the extensive TeamGB branding, it is the private company coffers of Locog where the funds will go. The British Olympic Authority have been granted merchandising rights over only two items, a scarf that was released last month and is on sale at Next, and a second item that will be released in May.
As it stands, the scarves cannot be bought in Locog's official merchandise stores, though there is some hope that this will change. The official kits on the other hand, will be.
Locog's job is to raise just over £2bn, the cost not of building the venues or training the athletes, but of “staging the games” – ie the javelins, the medals, the tickets, the uniforms for the gamesmakers and so on. Merchandise sales are a crucial element of their budget.
At the end of the games, Locog ceases to exist, and 60 per cent of any surplus in their coffers will be given to the British Olympic Authority, though Locog don’t expect there to be any cash left over. Any shortfall is under written by the tax payer.
So if you think you, your son or daughter is the next Sir Chris Hoy, buy your lycra and wear it with pride, but don’t expect to see any of the profits at your local velodrome, on the off chance you should have one.
- More about:
- Olympic Stadium
- Retail Of Clothes
- Styles And Clothes