A new scandal has broken after the news the US athletes at the forthcoming London Olympics will wear stylish uniforms designed in the US – but made in China.
The news prompted a rare outbreak of bipartisan agreement, with Republican and Democratic leaders highly critical of the US Olympic Committee.
“I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves,” Senate majority leader Harry Reid said.
The outfits – which cost close to $2,000 – were designed by US label Ralph Lauren.
“The classic navy blue blazers, white trousers and skirts, and red-accented ties and berets may have a distinctly American look, but the label inside reads “Made in China”, ABC News revealed.
That left a sour taste in the mouths of the nation’s top lawmakers when they were asked about the affair on Thursday.
House of Representatives minority leader Nancy Pelosi stressed the entire nation was behind its Olympic athletes.
“We take such pride and they work so hard. They represent the very best and they’re so excellent, it’s all so beautiful,” the California Democrat said.
“And they should be wearing uniforms made in America.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner kept his comments brief.
“You’d think they’d know better,” he said of the US Olympic Committee.
But the strongest remarks came from Harry Reid, the senior Democratic senator from Nevada – a state hard-hit by the lingering economic downturn and which has seen high levels of unemployment since the time of the last Olympics, held in China’s capital, Beijing.
“I am so upset. I think the Olympic committee should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
“I think they should take all the uniforms, put them in a big pile and burn them. And start all over again,” the Los Angeles Times quoted him as saying.
“I hope they wear nothing but a single that says <<USA>> on it painted by hand. We have people in America working in the textile industry who are desperate for jobs,” he concluded.
In a statement, the US Olympic Committee said Team USA was privately funded and sponsored.
“We’re proud of our partnership with Ralph Lauren, an iconic American company,” the committee added.
The US Olympic uniforms cost $1,945 for men and $1,473 for women, Ralph Lauren said.
Although this is not the first time Ralph Lauren has designed US Olympic garb, lawmakers said the Chinese involvement had a symbolic impact, as the US anxiously searches for clues of renewed economic competitiveness.
“Today there are 600,000 vacant manufacturing jobs in this country and the Olympic committee is outsourcing the manufacturing of uniforms to China?” said Steve Israel, a House Democrat.
“That is not just outrageous, it’s just plain dumb. It is self-defeating.”