By  on November 23, 2005

NEW YORK — The outfits U.S. athletes wear during the opening and closing ceremonies at the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy, next year will pay homage to retro skiwear as well as the host nation.

Roots Canada, a U.S. Olympic Committee apparel sponsor, on Tuesday unveiled the Olympic team collection. The apparel has a distinctive retro feel, with oversized graphics inspired by vintage American ski looks, as well as influence from current Italian streetwear fashions.

Roots co-founder Michael Budman said the Olympics are an important sales opportunity for Roots and he expects this collection to have sales of as much as $10 million this year.

The Canadian apparel giant has had a deal with the USOC since 2002 and it extends through 2008. Nike is another key USOC apparel sponsor, having taken over from Adidas as the provider of uniforms worn by athletes on the podium when they accept their medals.

"We think this is the best Olympic collection we have done," Budman said Tuesday. "We spent a long time researching old uniforms worn from the Fifties to get inspiration. We also work closely with the athletes to ensure we are meeting their needs."

The Olympics run Feb. 10-26 and athletes from around the world will compete in sports such as figure skating, bobsled, luge and a variety of ski competitions.

Roots, based in Toronto, provides each U.S. athlete with about 40 items, and offers head-to-toe looks, including boots, hats and sportswear, and also supplies U.S. Olympic Committee coaches and staff with the collection, a company spokesman said. There is the official merchandise the athletes must wear for the ceremonies as well as so-called villagewear for athletes to use when they are relaxing.

Hoping to capitalize on the success of its beret from the 2000 Winter Games, Roots also has introduced an updated version of the hat that is polyester and has a drawstring tie. The apparel collection comprises layering pieces such as hooded zip sweatshirts, vests and track jackets, and many items are made of high-tech performance materials. There is also a selection of accessories.

The collection is available for consumers and will be sold for the first time at Target stores starting in January and on the Target Web site, Budman said. In addition, it will be sold on the Roots Web site, and at Dick's Sporting Goods and other retailers, including the NBC Experience store in Manhattan's Rockefeller Center. It carries suggested retail prices ranging from about $25 for the beret to $198 for a down vest."We really like being associated with the Olympics," Budman said. "It's great for young people and it promotes healthy activity. It's much more important than a new video game."

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