Olympics outfits are bug-proofed

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Olympics outfits are bug-proofed

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Left: Sabre fencer Kim Ji-yeon, left, and taekwondo athlete Lee Dae-hoon wave Korean flags while in formal dress for the Rio Olympics. Right: Rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae poses for a photo wearing the team’s uniform for medal ceremonies. [NEWSIS]

Who would have thought that an insect as small as a mosquito could threaten a global event like the Olympics?

But with fears about the mosquito-born Zika virus causing athletes to withdraw left and right, Korea’s delegation is taking all possible precautions - including uniforms designed to be insect-proof.

The managers of Korea’s athletes requested that the makers of the team’s clothing, U.S. company North Face and Korea’s own Beanpole, include features like long sleeves and fabric treated with mosquito-repelling chemicals. This is despite the assurances of the Brazil Olympic Committee, which has said that the weather will be cooler by the time the Olympics begin in August, decreasing the number of mosquitos and lessening the risk of Zika.

Though the mortality rate of Zika is extremely low and its symptoms can be mild, the virus is widely feared because it can lead to microcephaly in babies, a medical condition causing incomplete brain development.

During an event at the Taeneung Training Center on Wednesday marking 100 days until the games kick off, the Olympics team showcased the athletes’ outfits for the game.

Taekwondo athlete Lee Dae-hoon and sabre fencer Kim Ji-yeon appeared in formal dresses while wrestler Kim Hyeon-woo and handball player Kim On-a donned tracksuits.

“The Korean Sport Olympic Committee (KSOC) requested early on that the uniforms feature long sleeves,” said a marketing staffer of North Face.

Still, athletes say the clothes are comfortable and practical.

“I was surprised to find out just how light the clothes were,” said Kim On-a, sounding excited.

The outfits were also stylish enough that anyone can recognize Korea’s athletes.

For instance, the awards-ceremony dresses unveiled by rhythmic gymnast Son Yeon-jae are designed with the Korean flag in mind, containing the four trigrams in Korea’s colors of blue and red.

The attire of Korea’s team has often found itself in the spotlight, for better or worse.

The team’s clothes first received attention back in 1988, when Korea hosted the Seoul Olympics. As host, the team’s outfits were noted for their attention to detail. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the team became the first to ever have a uniform with a hood. But at the Athens Olympics in 2004, the team was accused of wearing designs that imitated the outfits of the French team.

The team’s attire regained favor at the London Olympics in 2012, when the Korean team’s sailor-inspired uniform was named one of the best at the event by Time magazine, along with those worn by the Jamaican, French, New Zealand, Italian and German teams.

Beanpole, which specializes in trendy everyday clothes, designed the looks for the opening and closing ceremonies, which are the most-viewed events of the games. The looks showcase Korea’s traditional colors and culture, but even these all-important outfits have been treated to keep mosquitos at bay.

During the 100-day event, athletes and coaches heading to Rio discussed their thoughts about the upcoming games.

Shooter Jin, who is aiming for his third Olympics gold in three consecutive Olympics, said, “Pressure is my worst enemy. I need to play my game free of pressure and burden.”

“It’s more difficult to protect the throne than to get there. We are also shooting for our eighth consecutive title in the team event,” said Korea’s ace archer Ki Bo-bae. “We hope to continue our seniors’ legacy.”

“The most important responsibility of the delegation’s managers is to help the athletes to stay concentrated and perform at their peak level,” said Chung Mong-gyu, chief of Korean delegation.


BY KIM JI-HAN, KIM WON and CHOI HYUNG-JO [choi.hyungjo@joongang.co.kr]
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