SOCHI, Russia—In spite of his recent guarantee that everyone will be welcomed at next year’s Winter Olympics in Russia, President Vladimir Putin declared that Team USA’s new uniforms, designed by Ralph Lauren, are “too gay for serious competition.”
Putin spoke about the uniforms in jest during an interview on state-owned Channel One Russia in which he reiterated his promise that every Olympic participant would feel “comfortable” in Sochi, “regardless of nationality, race, or sexual orientation.”
“But Russia’s laws remain unchanged,” added Putin, “as do its views on homosexuality. Still, that doesn’t mean that we have to make it our problem that the USA uniforms are too gay for serious competition.”
Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors” on June 30 as part of Russia’s efforts to limit the rights of its LGBT citizens. The law has overshadowed Russia’s $50 billion Olympic event in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi.
The International Olympic Committee seconded Putin’s promise that all visitors would be welcomed, but IOC President Thomas Bach said Putin’s “ill-timed joke” is further reason for the IOC “to remain skeptical that Putin will keep his promise to the Olympic family.”
Ralph Lauren has designed Team USA’s uniforms since 2008. This year’s ensemble includes knit sweaters with deer motifs and fashionably cut outerwear.
Company executive David Lauren told the Associated Press, “Ralph Lauren worked incredibly hard as a company to go across America to find the best partners to help us produce the Olympic uniforms at the highest quality for the best athletes in the world.”
“We were disappointed and embarrassed for Mr. Putin when he made a joke at our expense,” stated Lauren, “but everybody at Ralph Lauren still has the Olympic spirit. Besides, what is Team Russia going to be wearing? Burlaps sacks and camouflage?”