Designers of Games capes under wraps

“It was top secret,” one Japanese delegation official said of the colorful capes worn by the country’s athletes and officials in the Sydney Olympics’ opening ceremony last week.

Many of those trying to determine the designer of the outfits — which broke Japan’s monotone tradition — were given a clue Monday by Kazuko Tagawa, director of Nippon Uniform Center, who confessed to supervising the work.

Tagawa, 62, declined to reveal the identities of the five who designed the capes, but described them as two new male designers aged 28 and 35, and three others also employed at the Tokyo-based center.

According to Tagawa, the Japanese Olympic Committee formally gave her team’s design the green light for the Sydney Games in June.

She said the capes’ colors are optimistic and reflect the “Aussies’ carefree nature and the city’s deep blue sky.”

The capes, which were only revealed to the athletes on the day of the ceremony, were even a surprise to the JOC’s public relations department, which was flooded with inquiries about them.

The uniforms were both lauded and criticized by viewers, many expressing their opinions on the JOC’s Web site. Some said they were “the worst uniform” worn by any delegation during the opening ceremony, while others said they believed that standing out was a good thing. Others said it looked like the capes made it difficult for the athletes to wave to the crowd.

“Television must have shown the brightest colors ever worn by an Olympic delegation from Japan,” Yushiro Yagi, the JOC president and chef de mission, said Friday. “I imagine it was very beautiful.”

Immediately after the opening ceremony, the JOC said the rainbow-patterned capes were made to reflect the nature of Australia and coincide with the ecological theme of the Sydney Olympics.