By Erin Halvey
This year, you may have noticed a small group of athletes in the Olympic Opening Ceremony walking behind the Olympic flag. They were three of four athletes given special permission to compete as independent Olympic athletes or IOAs. Three come from the Netherlands Antilles which were partially absorbed by the Netherlands, and one is from South Sudan. Neither country has a National Olympic Committee so they cannot represent their home countries. The IOC is allowing them to complete as independents.
It has only been a relatively recent phenomenon of IOAs competing. Either, it's a way to get around sanctions (in Yugoslavia's case in 1992) or a way to allow athletes who have been training to work around the political turmoil of changing governments or newly found independence.
Part of the requirements placed on these athletes is that they must compete under the Olympic flag and wear neutral, white uniforms. In 2000, the IOAs from East Timor and in 1992, the IOAs from Yugoslavia and Macedonia were both required to procure white uniforms themselves.
By choosing a white uniform, the IOAs are stripped of any hint of national flags or political statements. White is the color of neutrality; it is both the absence of color (in pigment or dye) and the combination of all colors (in light). The white uniforms allow the IOAs to represent no country and yet all countries at the same time.
Nike has created the uniforms for this Olympics' IOAs. They took pieces of their current collections and customized them with the Olympic logo, the designation of IOA, and made shoes that incorporate the five colors of the Olympic logo. You can read about the specifics of the uniforms (such as the exact model in Nike's collection) at Freshness. They even talk about a special scarf made for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies and how it relates back to a Nike program.
Photo credits: Nike via Freshness.
If you liked this article, you might like our other Olympics-related posts.
Erin Halvey is a collections management intern at MTS, is an art nerd, and she also has a website devoted to the art and food she encounters at home or on her travels called A Sense of Place.