Ever wonder what Olympic athletes are thinking about when they march in the Parade of Nations at Opening Ceremonies? World peace? The fraternity of sportsmen? Their place in history? Not exactly. It's more like: How come those damn Canadians, with their red-and-white polar-fleece jackets and snappy berets, look so much better than we do?
Turns out the Canadian team's snazzy outfits at the 1998 Winter Games caused serious uniform envy among the Americans. In fact, the Canadian gear was among the most in demand on the informal barter market among international athletes. Which is why, when it came time to design the U.S. team's threads for Salt Lake, the USOC contracted Toronto-based outfitter Roots, manufacturer of the Canadian uniforms. Some U.S. athletes, including 1998 gold-medal-winning aerialist Nikki Stone, even trekked up to the Roots offices to offer design tips and ideas. "We won't be wearing costumes any more," says Stone (below). "It won't be the typical cowboy hat and long pelt coat. We're walking in something you'd see in a magazine."
It's no wonder, then, that the new American outfits, featuring polar-fleece jackets and blue berets, seem strikingly similar to the Canadian uniforms from the Nagano Games. Stone admits to a certain keeping-up-with-the-Joneses mentality in the new look. "Everyone envied the Canadian team," says Stone, "and we want to be that team this time."