By Adam Welsch
If youâre like most people from around the world, over the past couple of weeks youâve been watching the XXI Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver, Canada.Â During the Summer and Winter Games, the events themselves are the primary attractions of course, but there are always many other interesting features for fans to absorb.Â There are the personal stories of the athletes themselves; the sights, sounds, and histories of the host venues; and the international political tensions that sometimes arise among the disparate group of competing nations.Â But, letâs face it, all of that can get a bit tiresome.Â Thereâs been another topic of conversation, throughout these and previous Olympic Games, which merits some attention as well.Â And that topic is underwear.
Granted, itâs not exactly a subject that one would immediately think about in the context of the Olympics.Â But since these pages devote themselves to an ongoing discussion about all things related to intimate apparel, weâd be remiss if we ignored its presence.Â So, here are the top 11 items of Olympic underwear-related miscellany â an Olympic Melangâerie if you will – that you should keep in mind as you watch the Gamesâ final events:
11.Â British Olympians Lift More Than Their Countryâs Spirits
During the summer of 2008, British Olympians apparently provided a bounce, of sorts, for the British economy.Â Sales of sports bras in Great Britain rose 30%, and analysts attributed that increase to the extraordinary success of British athletes in the Beijing Games, who won forty-seven medals â the highest total since the summer of 1908, the last time London hosted the event.
10.Â Faster than a Speeding Serve, More Powerful than an Open-Handed Spike
Japanese menâs volleyball teams failed in their attempts to qualify for the 1996, 2000, and 2004 Summer Olympic Games.Â So the pressure was on in 2008.Â Luckily, their fortunes changed, helped in part by what the Japanese media referred to as the teamâs new âSuper Undies.âÂ Team members wore these new, ultra-light underpants along with new uniforms.Â The overall reduction in uniform weight of 20% was credited in helping the team successfully qualify for the Games in Beijing.Â Unfortunately, the undies didnât help the teamâs Olympic performance.Â The squad finished the Games without a single match victory.
9.Â You Have Our Word on It
The small size of the uniforms worn by female Olympic beach volleyball players led in the summer of 2008 to the most literal of attire for Team Brazil.Â Each player wore their countryâs abbreviation, âBRA,â emblazoned across the front of her top.
8.Â From Boards and Skis, to Panties If You Please
American Alpine skier Julia Mancuso, a three-time OlympicÂ medal winner (one gold in 2006 in the Giant Slalom, and two silvers in 2010 in the Downhill and Combined), introduced her own line of underwear just prior to the Vancouver Winter Games that includes thongs and boy shorts.Â She hopes to expand the brand to include other items of lingerie.Â Not to be outdone, snowboarder Hannah Teter, a two-time Olympic medal winner (one gold in 2006 and one silver in 2010, both for Halfpipe), also has her own line of underwear.Â Currently, Teter donates five dollars to Doctors Without Borders for each pair of panties she sells.Â She has a goal of raising $100,000 for the organizationâs current efforts in Haiti.
7. Â Whatâs Black and White and Red All Over?
The rules of Olympic menâs field hockey state that the shorts and underwear of the playersâ uniforms must match.Â During the 2008 Beijing Games, the coach of the New Zealand menâs field hockey team was suspended for one game against Germany after three of his players wore black underwear with white shorts during their previous game against China.Â Though Olympic officials initially wanted to suspend the players, their coach successfully argued that he was ultimately in charge of what they wore and should bare the shame and punishment for his team.
6.Â Hoops, Ribbons, Ropes, and Clubs â¦ but please, no Straps
5. Â Sheâd Give Him the Shirt off Her Back
When members of the Argentine womenâs field hockey team received their bronze medals during the 2008 Summer Games, captain Magdalena Aicega was seen celebrating the occasion in her bra, covered only by her countryâs flag.Â It turned out that after the teamâs bronze-medal-clinching victory, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, who was in the stands, asked Aicega for her jersey.Â She said, âI could not say no to him, it hardly took me a second to take it off.â
4.Â Mom, Youâre Embarrassing Me
In ancient Greece, married women were barred from watching Olympic competition.Â In fact, those caught doing so were supposed to be put to death.Â However, thereâs a famous story about one woman, Callipateira the Pherenice of Rhodes, a widow who defied the ban in 404 B.C. by disguising herself as a male trainer.Â She did so to accompany her son Peisirodus to his boxing match.Â Unfortunately, her deception was discovered when, in jumping over a fence to congratulate her son on his victory, her mantle slipped and exposed her bare breast.
Fortunately, her lack of undergarments didnât lead to her execution.Â The chief judge of the Games spared her life out of respect for her father, her brothers, and her son, all of whom were Olympic champions.Â However, a new rule was instituted that, in the future, all trainers accompanying athletes had to enter the stadiums naked.
3. Â X-Ray Vision Not Needed
In a training session just before the Vancouver Games began, Japanese speed skater Miho Takagi (who competed in the womenâs 1000m, 1500m, and 3000m events) wore a see-through speed-skating outfit that plainly revealed the G-string she was wearing.
2. Â Â A Fast One Down Under
In 1956 Australian Barry Larkin, and eight other college students, tricked Olympic and Australian officials and spectators into believing that they were a part of the official Summer Olympic torch relay squad.Â To carry out the hoax, they dressed in white shirts and shorts and jumped out onto the relay route, running ahead of the official participants.Â Mr. Larkin, the faux torch bearer, presented a fake torch, made with a silver-painted wooden chair leg and a plum pudding can, to the Mayor of Sydney.Â Inside the can, the group had earlier placed a kerosene-soaked pair of underpants that served as the flameâs fuel.Â The students were protesting the procession of the Olympic Flame, in part because the torch relay had been invented by the Nazis for the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.
1. Â A Whole New Meaning for the Term âSplit Timeâ
British Olympic bobsledder, Gillian Cooke, experienced the ultimate wardrobe malfunction while preparing for a run at the 2010 Womenâs World Bobsled Championship in St. Moritz, Switzerland last month.Â Fortunately, the Scottish former track and field star decided not to âGo Commandoâ in this event.CC Image courtesy of adrian8_8 on Flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/26349479@N07/ / CC BY 2.0 CC Image courtesy of futureatlas.com on Flickrhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/87913776@N00/ / CC BY 2.0