Four years ago we sat with jaws unhinged, eyes bulging, and in between awe-struck gasps, billions of us around the world uttered in hundreds of languages: “You’ll never be able to top that!” Beijing had something to prove, and they proved it tenfold. And it was evident, even back then from Great Britain’s teaser at the finale of that ceremony — with their double-decker bus bulging with clowns and corny cops — that the world knew it’d better lower its expectations for London’s turn. What we couldn’t have known then, however, is that London would end up making Salt Lake City look like Beijing.
While there were some flashes of brilliance and a tender moment or two (the forging and connecting of the Olympic rings, the first twenty seconds of Mr. Bean, the Iraqi flag-bearer on the cusp of tears, and the all-too-brief popping down of a squadron of Mary Poppinses), the kinder people of newsprint have called the spectacle “quirky.” Dancing kittens in fuchsia tutus are quirky — last night’s spectacle was just plain baffling.
Most of the world woke up slack-jawed by what happened to them last night: from the ten-minute clean-up of sod, fences, and herding of sheep; to Kenneth Branaugh looking like he was getting ready to see Our American Cousin; to the curious slow-motion shots of the Queen’s corgis; to the absence of a Kate Bush snippet; to the astonishingly idiotic social media/romance playlet complete with floating pop-ups; to annoying children jumping on beds and spinning nursemaids, and of course the ubiquitous allegory of what-used-to-be: Paul McCartney warbling like a drunk Liverpudlian lesbian.
And then came one of the world’s favorite pastimes, sartorially judging 204 nations and territories at rapid speed. And many of the costumed athletes chose to film this event themselves, apparently unaware that the Olympics is actually televised. Not to be outdone, Kazakhstan upped the ante and even waved their iPads. It was not unlike sitting in a restaurant while watching passersby shade their eyes and press their faces to the window: no matter what the circumstance, they always look like idiots.
But having an affinity, or disdain, for this country or that country has no bearing whatsoever on how we judge them on their costuming. And without further ado, here are the medal winners for best and worst
The Best of the Parade of Nations
The Bronze Medal Goes to The Netherlands
Sporting the vibrant orange of the Huis van Oranje–Nassau, which is also color of the country’s soccer team jerseys, the Dutch looked relaxed and hip, yet still patriotically apropos. We’re particularly fond of the tulip (which is actually Turkish — read about that here) boutonniere and the white-piped navy blazers.
The Silver Medal Goes to Costa Rica
The anthisis of the frivolity of the Dutch, the Costa Ricans kept their look clean, fresh, and elegant. With their impeccably tailored jackets, flattering hemlines, and classic straw hats this group looks like they’re heading back to the verandah on their sugar plantations for a cigar and a glass of Centenario.
And the Gold Medals Go to the Entire Continent of Africa*
(*Except for the Democratic Republic of Congo but we’re blaming Belgium for that. And for the record, if a country has both “democratic” and “republic” in its full title, there’s a very good chance it’s neither democratic nor a republic.)
All of Africa knocked us out with the best in traditional dress and odd twists on their own classics. Look at Gambia‘s olive green polished cotton — it’s just crazy enough to work. Then there’s the curious Caucasian guy bringing up the rear as a reminder to us all that white people should never wear African shmatas in public — no matter how cool they look. Maybe that’s why the Gambian woman in the front is so upset. ♣ Cameroon knocked out of the ballpark, or whatever it is that they have in Cameroon to knock it out of it. The colors, the textures, and the pasterns of the textiles are brilliant. This just floors us. If we had to choose one single best-dressed country (or territory) we’d choose Cameroon. ♣ Burkina Faso’s tunics would even be wearable poolside in East Hampton (no they wouldn’t) and we can already see Tory Burch ripping them off at this very minute. ♣ The next time you hear a news commentator or pundit make a wisecrack about this country’s name we want you to write that person a hate letter. Yes, Djibouti is a real country in northeastern Africa, NBC. Look at this exquisite woman with the gold veil on her face. You’re welcome.
The Worst of the Parade of Nations
We could have easily chosen fifty or more but we had to choose only three. El Salvador with their misshapen ombre jackets barely slipped past this list, and Cuba’s faded Century 21 blazers made us cringe, and we were simply baffled by Mexico’s hit-or-miss colorful “come as you are” cadre. It was tempting, to include them but we admittedly graded on a socioeconomic curve — those aforementioned countries are still considered parts of the developing world, whereas the ones below have no excuse.
The Bronze Medal Goes to the Czech Republic
This is unbelievable. From a country that possess some of the most brilliant art nouveau and cubist architectural masterpieces, as well as some of the finest fin–de–siècle artisany now coughs up shit like this. If the leggings with squiggly designs and the blazers smashed over double-layered white tops weren’t enough, there’s the footwear. You can call them galoshes, wellies, or rain boots — we call them retarded. And the umbrellas? Oh, very how clever. Sit down.
Dead Heat Tie for the Silver Medal: Great Britain and The United States of America
At this point in the night the onslaught of faddish flops nearly has us Stockholm Syndromed then this happened. The gold stripes on the legs and linings makes these costumes look like something out of an elementary school production of Starlight Express, and the golden collars look like the foil around an Arby’s sandwich. What is going on here? The men are wearing manpris and now Bowie’s Heroes has been ruined forever. Thanks a lot, G.B. ♣ Everyone’s sick to death of hearing about how America’s costumes were made in China so we’re not going to discuss it. Wait, yes we are. Ralph Lauren should have his head examined. Yes, most garmenti have factories in Asia but Lauren knew it would come out that these life-size Madeline doll costumes were not made in the U.S. While outsourcing to a degree makes sense, clothes made by China to represent the U.S. at an International event is simply asinine. Never mind that these hemlines with lace-up Oxfords make even the curviest of legs look like hot dogs, or the fact that they look like flight attendants on a new discount French airline, or that the logos on the berets and jackets are jarring. These were designed by a top American designer and this is what represents the U.S.? There are far better American designers who won’t hack out the same hackneyed silhouettes next go round and the time has come to follow our first lady’s lead and start recognizing, and investing in, new and fresh American designers.
The Gold Medal Goes to Germany
What happened to these people? What in God’s name is going on here? Is it a Betsy Wetsy Doll convention or did the communist daycare center just let out? We at least had to do double-takes on most country’s costuming to be offended but this was an all-out fashion blitzkrieg. We should have banned this type of shit in the Versailles Treaty when we had the chance. Perhaps we should be grateful, at least they’re not wearing their standard on-the-town footwear: tube socks and Birkenstocks. Pitiful.