Blog: Leonie BarrieCanada’s Olympic dispute

Leonie Barrie | 12 May 2008

A row of Olympic proportions has broken out in Canada after it was revealed that the uniforms worn by athletes at this summer’s Beijing Games will be made in China.

Apparently Hudson's Bay Company, official outfitter of Canada’s Olympians, decided to outsource 80% of production to China as most of specified the eco-friendly bamboo, cocona and organic cotton fabrics are available only in Asia.

Chris Rudge, CEO of the Canadian Olympic Committee, has also waded into the dispute after pointing out that Canada doesn’t have the necessary manufacturing capacity – particularly for the all-important replica clothing volumes.

And what about price? Well nobody’s mentioning that, but it must surely be at the heart of the matter.

The irony is that China’s cheap exports are largely seen as responsible for decimating the domestic trade. And rubbing salt into the wounds is the inference that Canada’s textile workers can’t be entrusted to make its athletes' apparel.

“Canada employs several tens of thousands of textile workers,” argues Robert Bouvier, president of Teamsters Canada, while Karen Pottle, co-chair of the Apparel Human Resources Council, said: “We have thousands of workers who are waiting for this opportunity.”

Sourcing decisions that involve a measure of national pride are bound to be controversial – especially when they buck the obvious route. But surely it’s logical that Canadian athletes should be wearing apparel produced by and for Canadians. I wonder how many other countries are going to be embroiled in a similar row?

Canada's Olympians to wear clothing from China


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