German Olympic uniforms are distinctive, but are they making a statement about Russia’s anti-gay policies?

Jay Busbee
October 3, 2013

Germany has unveiled the uniforms its athletes will wear for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, and they're distinctive, to say the least. The rainbow-hued colors mean that there won't be any Germans getting lost in snowdrifts in Russia, at least. But is there more to the uniforms than just a highly clashing color scheme?

In a word: probably. In the Olympics, every move has a political overtone. And for Sochi, the overarching theme is Russia's stringent anti-gay propaganda law. Many athletes are speaking out, most recently Bode Miller, criticizing the Russian government for its intolerance toward any sort of pro-gay message. Other athletes have taken similarly outspoken stances with their dress, words or actions.

Given that tolerance groups tend to favor the rainbow (as in, "all the colors of...") as a symbol, it's not a large leap to think that the uniforms could be a subtle form of protest against laws that crack down on speech and expression. The uniforms were designed by Willy Bogner in connection with adidas and the shoe company Sioux, and both the designer and the German Olympic commission have said there is no explicit political motive in the designs.

On the other hand, the official description, that the uniforms "were created using colors and materials specially tailored to the conditions in Sochi," is ambiguous enough to support the idea that this is a quiet form of protest.

Either way, the uniforms are sparking and perpetuating conversation about Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws. And it's certain that the conversation will continue right on through the Games themselves.

More views of the uniforms below: