You know that dream, where you find yourself surrounded by a crowd of people, and then you suddenly realise that you have no clothes on? Well, what if you were to find yourself in front of an audience of around two billion, wearing a sky-blue shirt with a wiggly, white pattern on it, and a caramel, turquoise and fuchsia tartan kilt, with matching caramel-coloured socks and shoes? Which would be worse, do you think? Which would be the more excruciating, embarrassing and soul-destroying experience? Me, I’d go naked any day.
So, spare a pitying thought for the poor Scottish sportsmen and women who will open this month’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow by parading around in just such a lethal combination of colours and patterns.
When I first heard the criticisms of the Team Scotland ceremonial attire, I wasn’t surprised – you can’t please all the people all the time. But when I actually saw the outfits, my heart sank into my boots. The only explanation I can come up with is that someone said to the designer, Jilli Blackwood, “we need a classy design, so when our athletes march out, they will create a real feeling of great pride in every heart”, but somehow she heard “we need a crazy design that will create the feeling of a Gay Pride march in the heart of Rio”.
We like to be known as “Scotland the Brave”; well, this is about as brave as it gets. Every single representative of this country who walks out into that arena next Thursday already deserves a medal. My first thought was that Blackwood had deliberately dressed everybody up like Johnny Depp when he played the Mad Hatter in Alice In Wonderland. Surely the similarity in the colour scheme and the use of the kilt was a homage to Mr Depp’s bizarre get-up in that surreal film? Then I saw Blackwood herself, and I realised that she was the one dressed as the Mad Hatter. The rest was just a terribly unfortunate coincidence.
Blackwood has said: “There will be no mistaking that this is the Scottish Team, as they proudly step out at the opening ceremony.” Certainly, there will be no mistaking them, unless people in the crowd start waving cheap 1970s car rugs. Then it might prove quite difficult to distinguish between the athletes’ expensive outfits and something you might sit on to stuff yourself with strawberry Angel Delight and Caramac bars.
Given how much Ms Blackwood’s misguided whimsy might affect global perception of Scotland, it sticks in my craw to hear her declare that she would have “got it wrong” if “everyone had liked” the outfits.
Oh, heaven forefend that she should create something stunning and elegant that everybody liked. How boring that would be? Apparently, she chose these particularly lurid colours because they show up well on television. Well, why not just go Day-Glo and be done with it?
This is such a sad moment because not only is it a missed opportunity to make Scotland look good, there’s also a huge risk that we’re going to be remembered for many years, in countries all across the planet, as the Soft Walters who wore pink, sky blue and beige.
The opening ceremony is the ideal moment to make a powerful, visual impact. Everybody is watching, but when the people of the world see Team Scotland, will they be impressed? Will they think we’re a force to be reckoned with? No. They’ll just wonder what the heck the Tweenies are doing there.
It’s so unfair on the athletes, who are our physical elite. They don’t deserve to be trussed up like Mardi Gras Barbie and Ken. They should be wearing clothes that flatter and showcase their amazing bodies; clothes that say: “Look at us! Aren’t we awesome?” Not: “Look at us! But not directly at us, or without adequate optical protection.”
Loyally, some of the competitors have said that the opening ceremony designs are “comfortable” and “eye-catching” – as opposed to uncomfortable and retina-destroying, I suppose. But, of course, they don’t want to rock the boat at this late stage. They just want to make the best of it and concentrate on the sport. What I don’t understand is how it’s come to this, when there has been so much time to create something genuinely attractive and stylish.
Surely someone must have been monitoring what Blackwood was up to? Surely, the moment the azure-and-white wavy-striped shirts and dresses appeared in tandem with the shocking pink and fawn tartan, it was time for someone to say “over my dead body”?
If a bride has known since 9 November, 2007, that she’s getting married on 23 July, 2014, she does not wait until 7 July, 2014, to look at her dress, and then say: “Oh well, I look a real sight, but it’s too late now.” No self-respecting woman would tolerate that.
It looks as though we are going to send our athletes out looking like the chorus line from a Las Vegas production of Brigadoon – although I wouldn’t blame any of our representatives should they suddenly find that they need to wash their hair at precisely the same time as the opening ceremony.
I’m wondering if the problem of ugly ceremonial attire started way back in Ancient Greece, and that’s why the original Olympians used to compete stark naked. So, I vote that Scotland forgets about fancy costumes, and we send our athletes into battle the traditional, Celtic way – in nothing but a liberal coating of woad.