SALT LAKE CITY – Long black leather. Gray-blue topcoats. Soft wool in winter white.
A new, formal look has swept through the team outfits for the 2002 Winter Olympics. Gone were the gaudy, multicolored ski outfits of the last 20 years. Many teams skipped the ski suits, opting instead for knee-length winter coats that could pass muster on the streets of New York, Paris or Milan.
Where to look first for winter fashions? Russia and France, of course.
The Russian women came to the stadium in winter white, knee-length coats accented by black fur collars, muffs and hats, while the male athletes paraded in camel brown. Both looks evoked Dr. Zhivago, the deep cold of the far north and the warmth of the Russian spirit.
French athletes wore classic long brown coats with shearling-like collars, more suited to walking along the Champs-Elysees than hopping on the ski lift.
Staying true to their sporty nature, the Americans appeared in jaunty dark blue togs with red and light blue accents designed by the Canadian company Roots — and even wore berets without the slightest embarrassment.
Long black coats, in wool or leather, were favored by dozens of nations, often accented with a brightly colored scarf. Britain and Hungary chose red scarfs, Georgia and Nepal opted for white. New Zealand athletes appeared in all-black ski suits, while Romanians chose the classic look of dark blue overcoats.
White was also popular: the Italian woman appeared in long, puffy ski jackets, while South Koreans accented their knee-length coats with a multicolored stripe and a fur-lined cap.
Switzerland stood out for its new take on the old ski suit, dressing athletes in ankle-length, iridescent silver-blue coats with contrasting deep red linings. The outfit went over a traditional ski suit of the same fabric.
The lone athlete from Bermuda, 27-year-old luger Patrick Singleton, added a bit of spunk to the opening ceremony by appearing in formal red shorts and long black socks despite the below-freezing temperatures.
Running counter to the dominant monochrome, several countries chose to highlight their native dress. Mongolia's flag bearer wore a strikingly embroidered, fur-lined vest, while athletes from Venezuela came in red, yellow and blue-striped ponchos with straw hats and those from Tajikistan wore gold-embrodiered dark tunics with close-fitting traditional caps.
The best accouterment, sported by athletes from around the globe, did not even come from a designer's studio.
It was a wide, ebullient smile.