Above: Nike's uniform for the Chinese Sportswoman, Track and Field
Above: Just a few of the Nike shoes for the Chinese Delegates in the Beijing Olympics
As you know, the 2008 Olympics are taking place in Beijing this year, beginning this week. What you may not know is that Nike designed and produced many of the uniforms and footwear for the Chinese delegates.
The US-based sportswear company has reached a mammoth sponsorship deal with 22 Chinese sports associations to provide outfits for those Olympic teams at the Beijing Games.
For its 2008 Olympic line, Nike's largest-ever effort for a Games, Nike has given top consideration to the needs of Chinese athletes. However, since China excels in many sports for which Nike is not used to designing apparel, the manufacturer is left with an unfamiliar challenge.
Accustomed to designing gear for more popular sports like athletics, swimming and basketball, Nike will instead have to work on products for less-fancied disciplines like equestrian, field hockey, fencing and archery for Team China. (Nike's arch rival Adidas won the endorsement rights for China's volleyball and soccer teams while local company Li-Ning will take care of the shooting, gymnastics, diving and table tennis teams.)
"They (Chinese sports federations) have high expectations for us to create the best products to allow their athletes in each sport to perform and compete for medals," said Mark Parker, Nike's executive chief officer.
"They challenged us to create the best, and that allows us to really rise to our full potential."
Chinese athletes will compete in all 28 Olympic sports this year and hopes to overtake the US atop the medal-tally board in Beijing.
Nike president Charlie Denson said the key to designing top-quality gear is to listen carefully to the athletes.
"It always starts with the athletes, who are often the new sources of innovation," he said. "We take whatever we know and combine with what we don't know. It's always fun to do."
Designers began interviewing hundreds of Chinese athletes and coaches in January 2006 to gather ideas for their products. Nike said these talks led to the creation of many innovative products.
In weightlifting, for example, designers removed the wooden heel traditionally used in shoes since the 1960s and replaced it with a contoured heel wedge, a lightweight alternative expected to better support the foot and bear as much weight as a man or woman can lift.
For beach volleyball players, who do not wear shoes, Nike designed special socks to protect their feet and increase drag. A similar sock-like foot support was also created for taekwondo, another barefooted sport.
For the more common sports like athletics, basketball and tennis, Nike produced some of the lightest shoes it has ever created based on a webbing of ultra-resistant fibers that act as a basket to attach the sole and support the foot.
"In the beginning, I mistakenly considered it a jogging shoe because it was so light," China's women's tennis No 2 Li Na said of her new shoe, which is half the weight of her regular shoe.
Nike has also changed the look of many products to reflect the history of the sports.
In designing apparel for wushu, which is not an Olympic sport but has a separate tournament being held during the Beijing Games, Nike designers read a lot of history books, watched Bruce Lee movies and talked with Beijing Wushu Academy head Wu Bin, who also mentors Hollywood kungfu star Jet Li.
Chinese wushu (martial arts):
They ended up with a pair of shoes printed with two Chinese letters "wu" and "xia" ("chivalrous man" in Chinese). Athletes were pleased.
"There are so many parts of wushu, you really have to get into the culture and know about it in order to make a proper shoe," said Sean McDowell, Nike's Olympic footwear director.
These cultural sensitivities also led to a decorative design on the Chinese team uniforms, which echoes the carvings on an ancient mask discovered together with terracotta warriors in the tomb of Emperor Qinshihuang.
"The mix of competition and consumer products is some of the best we've ever done," Parker said. "It's always our challenge to work with the athletes to elevate their performance and help them realize their potential."
source: China Daily
Basketball (these ones are specifically made for superstar Yi Jianlian):
Chinese wushu (martial arts):
In addition to the shoes, Nike designed the uniforms for the the Chinese athletes as well:
For BMX Cycling:
For Women's Basketball:
For men's basketball:
For Track & Field:
photos courtesy of Xinhuanet
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