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Best Seat in the House

Photography, sports and life as seen through the lens of Seattle Times photographer Rod Mar.

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August 8, 2008 6:55 AM

Olympics: What in the blazers were they thinking?

Posted by Rod Mar

By all accounts, the navy blue blazer is an indicator of success, especially in American culture.

The blazer is a staple of men's professional attire, and women find them smart when paired with slacks for a true business look.

So it's no wonder that Ralph Lauren, perhaps America's signature designer, chose navy blazers as the anchor of the uniform for the United States Olympic team to wear during the opening ceremony.

The blazers were accompanied by white shirts, white pants, white shoes, a navy tie with red stripe, topped off jauntily by white pageboy caps.

Very American. So American, in fact, that USA Today called them "right on the button" and the USOC's Chief Operating Officer Norman Bellingham, said the outfits were "exactly what we were looking for."

However, the uniforms couldn't have been comfortable, nor a smart choice. The temperature during the ceremony was above 90 degrees, and the humidity was oppressive.

How oppressive? Check out this athlete's suit as he hugged a friend during the Parade of Nations.


The athletes had to spend at least an hour queuing up for the athletes' parade and then spent another hour standing body-to-body in the stadium waiting for the torch lighting and the end of the ceremony.

I looked closely at the blazers. They weren't made of Dri-Fit, nor did they look cooling. But I guess they did look pretty cool, in the sartorial sense of the word.

Of course, this was the Olympics, and the athletes were having a great time, anyway.

You'd think there might be a detrimental effect of wearing all those clothes in all that heat.

When in Eugene, Oregon, last month for the US track and field trials, Nike experts told us about the concerns they and the USOC had over the oppressive heat and humidity of Beijing in August. They showed us vests designed to cool the body's core. New materials were being designed to let the body cool. It was important to keep the body's core from extremes in the days leading up to competition, they said.

I have no scientific data (I flunked science in kindergarten) to back anything up, but I did find it interesting that the U.S. chose to be fashion conscious instead of keeping their elite athletes comfortable.

By the time the ceremony finally ended near midnight, the Americans straggled out of the stadium mostly sans jackets and caps.

And, you just can't overheat some superstars.

Kobe Bryant looked resplendent in his outfit, which looks like he had tailored. Notice the perfect amount of shirtsleeve peeking out from his jacket cuff.

I thought it was curious that the in-house video showed a close-up of Bryant smiling and waving. The guy has a checkered past, to say the least. Why not show LeBron James?

Of course, leave it to the Europeans to keep things cool. Roger Federer led the Swiss delegation in a thin athletic T-shirt coupled with long shorts.

Wait. Are those Man-Capris?

That's a lot of words about fashion from a photographer who will have to wear a Kodak-issued khaki photo vest for the next 16 days. Maybe I'm just jealous.

Then again, showing up to photograph the BMX races in a blue blazer probably wouldn't cut it, either.

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August 8, 2008 3:46 AM

Olympics: Clamping down

Posted by Rod Mar

The most important piece of equipment I brought to the opening ceremony is called, appropriately, a Super Clamp.

These handy little gadgets will put a lock tight grab on practically everything, assuring a tripod-like base for long exposures without the motion blur often caused by handholding a camera on an exposure of one second or more.

One of the biggest features of the opening ceremony was the fireworks, which would be visible through the donut-hole roof of the Bird's Nest.

We were fortunate that our photo positions were along the front row of the second level of seats. This mean there was a safety railing right in front of us, allowing me to clamp to the railing.

Add a mini-ball head, a camera with a super-wide angle lens (in this case, the Nikon 14-24mm/f.8 lens on the full-frame sensor Nikon D3) and you have a simple recipe for making a pretty nice photo.

With the camera right in front of me, whenever fireworks erupted, I'd just reach over and hit the shutter.

Easy, breezy. Even I could do it.

(Nikon D3, EF 14-24mm/f2.8 lens @ 14mm, ISO 100, 2 seconds @ f22)

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Recent entries

Aug 8, 08 - 06:55 AM
Olympics: What in the blazers were they thinking?

Aug 8, 08 - 03:46 AM
Olympics: Clamping down







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