Innovative, streamlined and lightweight – the Australian competition uniforms for the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games reflect a new direction in sport with a uniquely Australian flavour. Australian athletes will have the only national uniforms designed by Nike to carry a single identity across all sports.

‘We began working with the Australian Olympic Committee and the Australian Paralympic Committee last December to ensure that the Australian teams would have uniforms that not only represented the identity of Australia, but also gave their Olympic athletes every performance benefit possible,’ said Ken Black, Olympic Creative Director, Nike Inc. ‘The AOC and APC wanted the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams to present a strong and powerful brand, so a team of over 50 Nike designers from around the world set out to capture the Australian spirit in visually exciting performance uniforms.’

The Nike design team created the Australian uniforms with three concepts in mind: streamlined design, lightweight construction and bodymapping. Streamlined design reflects the designers’ concept of these uniforms as a second skin. Lightweight construction is also apparent in the simplicity of design, the removal of seams where possible, and the use of lighter materials for graphic and Australian identity applications. For aesthetic appeal, the concept of bodymapping, or accentuating the athlete’s physique, through the use of the prints and patterns, add visual impact. The unique ‘waterfall’ print design, together with the Southern Cross gives the uniforms their uniquely Australian feel.

Nike designers worked with members of the Australian basketball, softball, track and field, hockey, baseball, rowing and canoeing teams in designing the uniforms.

‘At Nike, we work with athletes to give them every performance and psychological advantage possible. For example, we have worked closely with Cathy Freeman in developing the Swift Suit,’ said Mr Black. ‘Along with Marion Jones of the US, Cathy was probably the most involved athlete as far as research, development, and fine-tuning of the suit.

‘Canoeist Shelley Oates-Wilding, provided us with valuable input on the seam placement for the canoeing uniform,’ said Mr Black. ‘The women’s softball team also provided input – requiring a cut-off sleeveless top and longer pant. The team also wanted a tighter fitting shirt so we used Dri-FIT lycra to give them a better fit.

‘In the past, Olympic and Paralympic uniforms were used mostly for country and athlete identification,’ said Mr Black. ‘Now they are so much more – performance oriented, meeting the needs of athletes emotionally, physically and psychologically.

‘I believe it is this commitment to performance and innovation that will change the look of sport as we know it.’

For sports such as men’s basketball, soccer and cycling, uniforms have been constructed using Nike’s Dri-FIT fabrics to draw away moisture and keep athletes light and comfortable.

Aerodynamics and thermoregulation were two important functional focus areas for Nike in designing many of the uniforms. Aerodynamics adhere to the principle of streamlined, clean, modern lines. Where possible, construction seams were moved to the back or positioned downward on the front or the side of the uniform, to minimise drag, increase comfort and decrease distraction.

Thermoregulation has been identified as an important issue for the Sydney Olympics due to the drastic variation in temperatures during early spring. Materials and layering options will help athletes stay comfortable in cold and warmer weather.

‘Unfortunately, you will not be able to buy these uniforms for yourself during or after the Sydney 2000 Olympic and Paralympic Games,’ said Mr Black. ‘It’s critical that the designers create the best apparel for these athletes, without being influenced by what might or might not be commercially feasible. Their learning and innovations from this project will influence the rest of Nike apparel for years to come.

‘For the athletes, the ultimate goal is to win a gold medal in their sport,’ noted Mr Black. ‘For Nike, the Games are an opportunity to innovate. The more we learn about the athletes, the further we can go. As long as we continue to work with athletes we will never run out of ideas.

For further information contact Sophie Blue (02 9818 0949, 0416 006 821), Ty Jernstedt (02 9818 0957), Donna Tout (02 9818 0913) or Claire Sharpe (02 9818 0948, 0412 064 384) at Professional Public Relations.

Source: Australian Olympic Committee