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Strike a pose: High style meets high performance at London 2012

By Tom McGowan, CNN
updated 9:50 AM EDT, Thu July 26, 2012
It was inevitable that much would be made of Stella McCartney's designs for Team GB, with an expectant home crowd keen to see how their heroes will be dressed. The award-winning designer has attracted some criticism for failing to include enough red in the Union Jack-inspired attire. It was inevitable that much would be made of Stella McCartney's designs for Team GB, with an expectant home crowd keen to see how their heroes will be dressed. The award-winning designer has attracted some criticism for failing to include enough red in the Union Jack-inspired attire.
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The best: Stella McCartney and Team GB
The best: Prada and the Italian sailing team
The best: Cedella Marley, Puma and Jamaica
The best: Next and Team GB formalwear
The best: Ermanno Scervino and Azerbaijan
The best: Ralph Lauren and U.S. formalwear
The worst: Bosco Sport and Spain
The worst: Bosco Sport and Russia
The worst: Slovakia
The worst: Lithuanian men's basketball 1992
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A host of high-profile fashion names have been asked to design Olympic kits
  • Stella McCartney has designed Team GB's Adidas apparel for London 2012
  • Ralph Lauren has created the U.S. uniforms and Armani the Italian sailing kit
  • The global sportswear market is worth an estimated $120 million

(CNN) -- Medals and reputations will be won and lost at the London Olympics -- but forget the events, just who will triumph in the fashion stakes at the Games?

It is not just the kit athletes will wear on the track or in the pool which will make a splash, it is also the official uniforms which will be worn for Friday's opening ceremony.

As a designer, striking the right style chord can ensure your kit will be immortalized and cherished in the memories of a nation. Get it wrong, and the fashionista police will never let you forget it.

And with styles under forensic examination -- from journalists and paparazzi alike -- Olympic associations have left no seam unturned to ensure their athletes scrub up well.

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It is not surprising given the convergence between sport and fashion.

The global sportswear market is estimated to be worth $120 billion, which illustrates just how much is at stake for manufacturers to create the perfect impression.

Adidas, who generated sales of $16.3 million in 2011 and supply Team GB's apparel, have their eyes on upping their share of a British sportswear market worth $5.5 billion.

The German company has a long-standing relationship with Stella McCartney, the daughter of music legend and former Beatle Paul McCartney, and she has designed the uniforms for the host Team GB squad.

"This project has really means a lot to me being a British designer and working with Team GB at a time like this, when we are hosting the Games in London for 2012," McCartney told CNN.

"It really goes beyond anything I've ever done before and it's just such an incredible honor.

"Being a designer, a fashion designer this is not the type of opportunity that normally comes your way and I feel really very lucky and privileged. It's been a really exciting challenge."

McCartney is facing some top-level competition from the likes of French fashion house Hermes as well as Prada, Armani and Ralph Lauren, who have been brought in by other Olympic associations to work on their kits and uniforms.

"There were a million different things to consider with this role," explained McCartney.

"Number one was trying to identify what makes a country, to show the pride of the nation and translate that into clothing, while taking into account the necessary technical achievement.

"It also involves looking at the best athletes in the world and how to do them proud and to help enhance and support their performance."

While making sure the kit is fit for purpose, McCartney was also keen for each kit to safeguard the masculinity and femininity of competitors.

Anticipation builds for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics on Friday, July 27, at the Olympic Stadium in London. The 2012 Games will run through August 12. Anticipation builds for the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics on Friday, July 27, at the Olympic Stadium in London. The 2012 Games will run through August 12.
Olympics get under way
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Photos: Olympics get under way Photos: Olympics get under way
These 12 posters will be used to promote the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games. These 12 posters will be used to promote the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.
London 2012 posters unveiled
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Olympic posters past and present Olympic posters past and present

"Every athlete I talked to have said they perform better when they feel confident about how they look, so I really tried to do that," said McCartney.

"Another thing is how to look masculine and feminine with that and still keep the dignity of the athlete.

"Also, how everything will come across visually on television, when billions of people are watching it, to try and make it different. There are a million things to think of, working with a lot of guidelines."

McCartney's efforts have received the backing of one of Team GB's leading lights, the nation's first Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins -- sort of.

Wiggins, who will make his London 2012 bow in the cycling road race on Saturday, said on Twitter: "Just arrived at the Olympics, got all me kit, still think Stella was a bit Lucy in the Sky when she knocked this one up," a reference to one of McCartney's Dad's classic records.

"In a good way, certainly gonna (sic) stand out," added Wiggins in a subsequent tweet.

The confidence gained from looking slick is something Willie Walters, fashion course director at London's Central Saint Martins college of art and design, believes could give athletes the edge when it comes to winning medals.

"It is important that leading athletes are given the confidence of looking their best at such an important occasion when all the world is observing them," said Walters.

"This should be provided by the best designers available. A versatile designer can turn their talents to a range of aesthetics within the parameters of sporting attire."

Walters also detailed the possible benefits for designers able to attach their name to a successful Olympic squad, both in terms of reputation and financially.

"The coverage of the Olympics brings the attention of a much wider audience to these designers work.

"(Designing sportswear) cannot be easy and would require a lot of research on the part of the designer and their team; I would think it should be well remunerated."

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