Nike’s Olympic Gear For Athletes Without Countries

Not every Olympian is privileged enough to play for their home country. So what do they wear?

In the Olympics, every player is branded. Their entire wardrobe is a makeshift flag for their home country, a reminder that they’re playing for both themselves and a much grander audience. But out of the 10,490 competitors in the Olympics, there are four who aren’t playing toward a medal count for their countries because their countries don’t have recognized National Olympic Committees. Instead, they compete by qualifying as Independent Olympic Athletes (IOAs). Their flag is the Olympic flag. Their uniform becomes the Olympic uniform--which someone has to make.

Nike created custom uniforms for three athletes from the Netherlands Antilles (who will compete in sailing, the 400m, and judo) that were worn during the opening ceremonies. They consisted of a custom M65 jacket and a pair of Flyknit running shoes, along with a scarf, which share a color scheme with the Olympic flag--better known by most of us as “the rings.” And don’t worry, the fourth IOA, the awe-inspiring marathon runner Guor Marial born in what is now South Sudan, still got all of his competition gear covered along with the others.

All of this said, wouldn’t it be somewhat liberating for Olympic athletes to compete under a single uniform? Every four years, the world assembles in peace, only to duke it out through a highly regimented series of competitions. By so stringently swaddling our own players in national pride, aren’t we missing the bigger picture of world unity? Maybe we could use a few more IOAs.

You can buy the gear here.

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13 Comments

  • Geoff

    What happened to the AHO (Netherlands Antilles) olympic committee?  They competed from 1952-2008, including winter games in 1988 and 1992.

  • Jeff

    "All of this said, wouldn’t it be somewhat liberating for Olympic athletes to compete under a single uniform? Every four years, the world assembles in peace, only to duke it out through a highly regimented series of competitions. By so stringently swaddling our own players in national pride, aren’t we missing the bigger picture of world unity?"
    Uh huh. Hey, why have competitions at all? Doesn't that hurt the feelings of those athletes who, through no fault of their own, don't win a medal? And this juvenile obsession with medal counts also hurts the self-esteem of people from countries not named USA, China, or Russia. If we must have these athletic contests, everyone should get a medal. Who are we to say the USA is "better" or has "more medals" than other countries?

  • yellowicepick

    I am in love with this line.  

    Maybe, more because of the concept, rather than the look itself.
    I agree it is a bit Storm Trooper-y.  But, overall, it is clean, practical and would go with a range of clothing.
    I love the Citius, Altius, Fortius detailing and the subtle color of the shoes.

  • Andi Jarvis

    The Nike jackets have a little bit of "Storm Trooper" about them! Nice design though. Not sure about the single uniform supplier idea though. The fight between each of the suppliers to get that gig would be greater than anything seen at the Olympics

  • De

    Nope. No way. There's no question that an independent athlete such as Guor Marial would much rather compete for his own country if he could. Stop trying to be so utopian. It doesn't work. Even if you took away the uniforms the athletes would still be from somewhere. Let's instead focus on how well all of these athletes come together to play nicely while proudly identifying their cultural differences.

  • tjanderson

    There is no IOA gear available on the Nike site. I am probably not the first one to try and fail, and I wouldn't be surprised if I'm not even the only one to comment about it. I've search high and low on the internet for IOA gear and haven't been able to find any. Someone with more connections than me (as I'm sure there would be a lot of politics involved) should sell IOA shirts etc. to help support the Independent Athletes. I know many of them come to the Olympics at great cost to themselves. Or if it is already out there and I am simply incapable of finding it, I'd appreciate anyone posting a link.

  • Wooster99

    I'm with Kharsin.
    Let's celebrate our diversity in ethnicity and culture, country and allegiance. Feels as though the political "One World Government" supporters are trying to sneak in the back door and push their agenda by tapping into the Olympic venue. I like the uniforms from Nike though i don't think it's a reason to abandon our Red, White and Blue and what it stands for. Some countries think it would be liberating to assemble under ONE as long as it's their "ONE". Choice is liberating to me! Freedom is liberating to me! The World can assemble in peace without being under "ONE".

  • Al Kinley

    "All of this said, wouldn’t it be somewhat liberating for" Olympic
    athletes to compete under a single uniform? Every four years, the world
    assembles in peace, only to duke it out through a highly regimented
    series of competitions. By so stringently swaddling our own players in
    national pride, aren’t we missing the bigger picture of world unity?
    Maybe we could use a few more IOAs."

    Thank you thank you thank you for saying this.

  • Kharsin

    I think national pride is a huge part of the Olympics! Why stamp it out under a utilitarian uniform that labels everyone as "one of the masses?" Obviously these athletes are the best of the best, and take pride in representing their nation. What would come after that? Handing out medals to everyone for trying? Kudos to Nike for designing a bang-up uniform for these athletes without a country, but please leave our national pride!

  • Burke Allen

    I think that is a great Idea, maybe a simple country flag on a common uniform, we should all regard with some pride our national origin. but the Olympics are about something bigger. They are also about athletes coming together to compete "With Each Other" vs during War when countries compete "Against Aach Other"
     

  • Mike Groseth

    I think the idea of a "uniform" uniform sounds a tad to socialistic to me.  What I get out of the Olympics is not only national pride but also an appreciation for all the athletes that put their heart and soul into preparing and competing for their country.  Isn't that the point?  Competing for their country?  Anyway...I do think it is great that the athletes that wouldn't' be able to compete are able to via these outfits.