NEW YORK — Nike unveiled several athletic-gear innovations on Wednesday, including the red, white and blue uniform that members of the U.S. Track & Field team will wear next month at the Summer Olympic Games in Athens.
The company also reiterated that it was sticking by Marion Jones, the Nike-sponsored gold-medal winner at the 2000 Olympics who is a key part of a marketing campaign that begins running this month in print and TV advertisements. Jones, set to compete in the long jump after failing to make the team in the 100-meter dash, and other athletes have been investigated by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for using performance-enhancing drugs. She has denied any wrongdoing.
“We are not changing our plans regarding Marion Jones,” said a Nike spokeswoman at the event. “We have been working with her for years and we will continue to support her going forward.”
Nike took over a giant photo studio here to showcase its new Olympic running and track suits for teams around the world, as well as new footwear options and swimsuits and other apparel. Nike also showed images from its collaborative project with photographer Steven Klein, as well as a series of short films made by digital artists around the theme of speed.
There was a “gallery of speed” showcasing the evolution of Nike footwear over the last 30 years, and another area launching a selection of accessories such as sunglasses and Mp3 players.
The Swift suit is the centerpiece of Nike’s new Olympic offerings. Introduced in the 2000 Summer Games, the suit and swift technology have evolved to include a range of new options and styles. New suits have seamless construction, a lighter-weight fabric and ventilation systems to keep athletes cool and dry in Athens’ heat. The Nike Swift technology also has been adapted for sports such as swimming and cycling.
“Our mission with the Swift suit is to maximize athletes’ velocity,” said Jordan Wand, global director of Nike’s Advanced Innovation team. “It all comes down to speed.”
The company also unveiled a cooling vest created to keep athletes’ temperatures down even before they start competing. Resembling scuba gear, the silver vest is designed to be worn by athletes for a few hours before they actually begin their events, Wand said. It has special gel packs — similar to ice packs — that cool down athletes “before they start sweating,” he said.
Wand noted that Nike has worked extensively with athletes at its lab at the Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., to develop the new products for Olympics and other sports, including the items worn by six-time Tour de France winner and Nike-sponsored cyclist Lance Armstrong as he competed in France.
The Nike uniform for U.S. Track & Field, which all American athletes competing in the sport are required to wear, has new options for women, Wand said. The women’s top has more color on the front, while the women’s and men’s tops have bold USA letters across the top. There are a few different options available for the athletes, including one-piece and two-piece styles for women and singlet options.
While athletes on the U.S. team have to wear the Nike Track & Field uniform, each is allowed to wear his or her own footwear.
Nike sponsors hundreds of athletes and teams at the Olympics from around the world. It also is taking over as an apparel sponsor for the USOC starting with the 2006 Olympics, which means it will outfit American athletes as they stand on the podium during the medal ceremonies.
At the event, Nike showcased some giant photographs from a project it did in collaboration with Klein. Over a two-day period, Klein shot Nike-sponsored athletes in poses wearing items from the company’s elite collection, which is part of a new oversized, limited-edition book featuring Nike-sponsored athletes such as Justin Blake and Maria Sharapova, who wears a white Swift suit.
Images from the book are also on display through August at Nom de Guerre, a store and retail collective on Broadway in Manhattan. Images from the book will be on display in Paris at Colette and other stores as well.