KRISTIE RIEKEN, AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — When Team USA lines up for the opening ceremony of the Rio Olympics on Friday night, the team will don custom-fitted Polo Ralph Lauren ensembles saturated with the red, white and blue of the American flag.
It was a uniform months in the making.
Each American athlete trekked to the George R. Brown convention center in Houston for what’s called team processing. It’s a 12-day affair where more than 700 athletes and staff are fitted for the Olympics.
The athletes are given their opening and closing ceremony looks as well as a collection of Polo clothing to wear while at the games. A large ballroom of the convention center is transformed into a Polo showroom where mannequins display the closing ceremony looks, the Polo logo is everywhere and the Olympic rings also grace the walls as trendy music pumps through the space. There’s a large room where racks upon racks of clothing sits waiting to grace one of these athletes, and boxes of shoes piled at least seven feet high await their owners.
There’s one side for the men and another for the women where each athlete tries on his or her clothing. It is there that they can consult with one of two stylists about the looks and where 16 tailors pull, fold and pin the clothing to make sure everything fits perfectly.
Clothing that needs alterations is then taken to a room where about a dozen people wait to make the changes and have them back to the athletes within three hours.
Fencers and sisters Kelley and Courtney Hurley had some fun standing on a podium and working on their modeling poses after donning the gear.
The pair was impressed with the look.
“They fit nicely. I’m super impressed,” said Kelley, a bronze medalist in 2012. “I like them more than the last ones. In London we had like long skirts that were kind of awkward to wear. With these, these are slick. I’m going to wear these all the time. I’m actually going to wear them in real life.”
The star of the opening ceremony outfits is undoubtedly the expertly tailored deep navy blazers with gold buttons that feature the US Olympic team logo and a white embroidered Polo pony.
The back of the jacket features “USA” in large block letters in the same white as the pony. The jackets will be paired with selvedge white denim jeans that are inscribed with the words “Faster, Higher, Stronger” on the inside of the waistband and are also detailed with red and blue stitching on the cuff.
A classic striped T-shirt will be worn underneath the jacket and the look is completed with red, white and blue boat shoes, striped cotton bracelets and navy grosgrain belts.
When superstar swimmer Michael Phelps takes his spot in the parade as the country’s flag bearer, his jacket will be on another level. To note the honor of being chosen as the flag bearer, Ralph Lauren added some special touch to his jacket.
His jacket will feature electroluminescent panels to illuminate the US Olympic team symbol and the lettering on the back of his jacket.
“It’s an honor that is deserving of special commemoration, and this year, we wanted to celebrate and illuminate — literally — that honor by designing this revolutionary jacket,” said David Lauren, Ralph Lauren’s executive vice president of global advertising, marketing and communications.
The closing ceremony outfits maintain the same aesthetic as the opening ones, but are a bit more casual. They feature a button-down shirt in red, white or blue featuring the pony logo, a striped T-shirt and white chino shorts.