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You may see some new outfits on female Olympians as you watch events like beach volleyball, boxing, and badminton – or you might not. Changes suggested to make women’s uniforms sexier have been met with such an uproar that the new clothing items had to be made optional. Beach volleyball went in the other direction, possibly because their suits couldn’t possibly get any smaller and still stay on during competitions.
Women competing in beach volleyball may not be wearing their usual skimpy bikinis. Changes came to the traditional uniform following complaints about the teeny bikinis, mostly from Middle Eastern nations. Athletes now have the option to wear shorts and t-shirts. The shorts can be a maximum length of three inches above the knee, while the shirts can be sleeved or sleeveless.
The U.S. beach volleyball team maintains that they will continue to wear the traditional, tiny uniform. One member of the U.S. team, Jen Kessy, said, “This is the most comfortable thing for us to wear… If it is cold, we will put clothes on. But we won’t be playing in shorts. For us, that’s not comfortable. You get sand everywhere in the pockets.”
Fellow U.S. teammate and two-time Olympic gold medalist Kerri Walsh echoed the sentiment: “We need to be wearing bikinis. You don’t want to be wearing baggy clothes and be lost in your clothes.”
I’m not sure about that. Somehow the men manage to play in shorts and tank tops, plus I have to wonder how those tiny little bottoms even stay on with all of the diving. The Australian women’s team has packed their cold weather gear and plans to use it. “We need it to keep our muscles warm. It’s an extremely strenuous sport,” said Australian beach volleyball player Tamsin Hinchley.
The important thing is that women now have a choice in attire, and they may need it. London is expected to be rainy for parts of the Olympics, plus some of the beach volleyball events occur at night, as late as 11 p.m. local time.
Another sport that recently allowed women to choose their attire is boxing. The Amateur International Boxing Association pushed for female boxers to wear skirts as they competed to make it easier for television viewers to tell the women from the men. Well, uh, couldn’t the viewers check their DVR guides to see if it said “women’s” or “men’s?” Or how about checking the names? Or, you know, checking for sports bras? Claressa Shields, a U.S. boxer, was equally skeptical: “It was to help separate the men from the women. But we got different names! Women got breasts! We got butts! Can’t you tell which one is which?” U.S. coach Gloria Peek said, “The skirt equates to sex; it equates to nothing else. How are you going to take that and put it into a gladiator sport? And what does that have to do with it?”
Female boxers now have a choice between skirts and shorts.
The international group that governs badminton also tried to force women into skirts in order to gain more viewers through “a stylish presentation of the players.” That quote roughly translates to “hot athletes in little skirts.” Like with boxing, the new uniform caused an uproar, and female badminton players now have the option of wearing shorts or skirts.
The one person who will be forced to bare more skin is Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani, one of the first female Olympians from Saudi Arabia. After much deliberation, it has been decided that she will have to have a bare head to compete in judo. “She will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab,” said Marius Vizer, president of the International Judo Federation. It had been expected that the two female Saudi Olympians would adhere to the dress code of Islamic law. The reaction from her home country is not yet known, but Shaherkani will not be able to compete with a head covering.
For the most part, these Olympics give female competitors the most choice they’ve ever had in uniforms. Comfort and fashion should be one of the last concerns on an athlete’s mind as she is trying to perform at her best, so let’s hope that each athlete has found what works for her and that no one has a wardrobe malfunction.