Olympic Uniforms: Less Clothing Means Better Results

Rossini said the volleyball federation makes some exceptions to its standards. Before any official matches or tournaments, players sign agreements with the federation for a number of things, including game rules and photo rights. While only federation-sanctioned uniforms can be worn, the organization has made exceptions in countries like India, where some players recently requested a cover-up for religious reasons.

"The FIVB has always accepted those requests to promote the sport everywhere in the world," he said.

Men Wear the Pants

Gymnastics, which is hugely popular come Olympics season, is another sport in which men and women wear starkly different uniforms, although they also compete on vastly different apparatuses.

"Other than the floor exercise and the vault, they don't do the same events," Leslie King, senior director of communications for USA Gymnastics, said.

While the women wear leotards for all their events, long-sleeved with no leg covering, the men wear shorts on vault and the floor exercise and tight-fitting pants on the pommel horse, parallel and high bars and rings.

The shorts, King said, allow greater range of motion for the men when they are tumbling, running and jumping.

Olympic Gymnastics: Uniforms and Shorts

All leotards are custom-made based on each girl's body, King said.

But the occasional noticeable wedgie after a routine? "I don't think there's probably any way to avoid it," she said.

Although the outfits are custom-made, the girls are young and still growing, King said, and she's never heard anyone complain about leotards that creep up.

The women often practice in a variety of clothing, including short-sleeved leotards and spandex shorts, while men often practice topless.

As in Olympics beach volleyball, the gymnasts' uniforms are regulated by an international federation. In Beijing last week, the U.S. women took home the silver, the men, bronze. And Americans Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson took home gold and silver individual medals, respectively.

Even male and female runners wear different uniforms, with women often seen in briefs, sometimes called "bun huggers," or spandex shorts and men in either spandex shorts or a looser variety.

Tom Surber, media information manager for USA Track & Field, said that American athletes don't have any regulations on what style of clothing they wear and there aren't different standards for men and women.

"They can wear whatever they want," he said. "Whatever they perform best in."

The rules say very little about clothing, focusing instead on shoes and the bibs that athletes wear to identify themselves. The International Association of Athletics Federations regulations speak mostly to advertising rules on competition clothing rather than the attire itself.

Melody Drnach is the action vice president of the National Organization for Women. The women's beach volleyball bikinis, she said, have come up for discussion a few times in her office as tournaments were aired on television.

But Drnach is not an athlete -- just "a wannabe," she said -- so she can't say whether skimpy outfits affect the outcome of competition. It's up to the athletes to define their needs and speak up if they aren't working, she said.

Likewise, Marj Snyder, chief programming officer for the Women's Sports Foundation, said that if the female athletes wearing skimpier uniforms than their male counterparts don't feel exploited, then it's not a problem.

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