Since then The 2006 Winter Games in Torino, Italy, the U.S. at the Olympic podium. The athletes wore Nike. Nike Apparel. Nike footwear is not just on the podium; Team USA Athletes take part in half the event, wearing Nike kits ranging from track and field to soccer, to speed skating. Thanks to the deal made in 2019, it will be at least ubiquitous through the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles. Swoosh, as they say, is strong.
But that ubiquity also comes with a challenge: to stay ahead of the said turn. As performance technology progresses so quickly, you will need to start thinking about gear athletes, no matter how early. Next Huge quadrilateral global competition?
About four years, it turned out. “As soon as the closing ceremony is over and the flames go out,” said John Hawke, Nike’s chief design officer, “our work for the upcoming Summer Olympics begins.” It’s not just marketing talk. The 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro ended on August 21 of that year; In September, a large part of Nike’s design team was in Japan, meeting with the Tokyo Olympic Committee to see if its members were the collective head.
A lot of things became clear very quickly. The first was that Tokyo would cry a lot from Rio. Gusts in the city of Brazil will seem familiar to anyone living in Miami in winter: an average high of 78 degrees Fahrenheit and relief from normal humidity. Tok Gust in Tokyo? Not more Hot, sticky, brittle.
The Tokyo Committee made it clear that it was serious about sustainability. This was not new to the Olympic organizers – after the start of the Sydney Games in 2000, officials implemented measures to offset the undeniable impact of being the host city – but some new measures were taken into account in Tokyo. They hired an architect. Kengo Kuma is known for his work in creating the centerpiece of the National Stadium in sports, to keep up with the balance around it. They were committed to making medals not only from recycled materials but also from recycled cell phones.
All this was music in the ears of the Nike team. They would have previously tried to design Olympic gear with the same ecological trend as the running singlet for the 2000 Sydney Games made from recycled bottles, but the purpose and execution did not always match. “Didn’t feel good,” says Hokek, looking back at that single. But now? With a handful of Olympics and two more decades of science and design innovation under their belts? Tokyo will give them a chance to balance performance and principle.
The resulting footwear and apparel – which Nike unveiled last year – did just months before the Covid-19 epidemic pushed the 2020 game forward into the summer of 2021. It is technically considered a hawk called “atomic level” based on the specific needs of the game, using computational design to deliver second-skin-appropriate or breathing bills. It represents the company’s biggest demonstration yet that stability does not mean sacrifice – aesthetic, athletic or otherwise.
By now, of course, we know that those 2016 meetings about Tokyo’s weather hazards have begun. Test events in August August 2019 reached such high temperatures that the Roars suffered heat exhaustion and the triathletes became worse. In hopes of a less brutal environment, the Olympic Committee responded by moving this year’s marathon 500 miles north to Sapporo.
Heat is a definite devil for track and field; Conditions on the track (and, uh, field) can have temperatures above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Nike’s apparel for the category seeks to exclude that monster with a new material it calls the AeroSwift, a micro-ribbed version of its popular drive-fit technology. It’s like an incredibly thin, narrow-valley corduroy. Except that the straps in these cords do two things: create a surprising effect that moves air along the skin beneath the fabric, and give the fabric a two-tone, seeming to shine when the athlete is in motion.