This storm in a tea-cup has generated two aspects about which I have concern.
Let me deal with the first one
– close to home. Women’s cycling is just like other women’s sports, the lens through which the view is portrayed to the public is often distorted. Sometimes that distortion is external and the fault can be clearly traced to the media and other times it comes from within. In Billie Jean King’s autobiography, she writes of the struggle to get women’s tennis taken seriously and the fact that often many of the players took actions that deliberately undermined the efforts they were making to represent the sport as worthy. Sport is entertainment and commercial value is all about perception.
So back in the UK. I am on record on this site, a couple of years ago with mildly not approving of the Boels Dolmans kit that Lizzie had to wear that made it look like she was wearing a basque. It was a cheap stunt that was designed to garner more than the fair share of publicity and media promotion to the team by overt sexualisation of the riders. That I am not alone in thinking that way is witnessed by the way the image of Lizzie in the outfit pointing at her breasts, apparently cupped in the faux basque, is still often used in stories relating to her, rather than contemporary images or even ones of her at London 2012. The image draws a certain type of reader to the article. Why else would they use it ? On another site I read that somebody was trying to state that the “basque look” was entirely accidental, based on the Boels logo. That ridiculous argument shows just how far people will go to try and justify their denial of the obvious and should stand as a marker in this affair.
But let’s go down a couple of steps, at least the Bogota and Boels kits had the riders dressed.
Remember these two – they decided to take everything off.
Another person who went completely naked was Erica Roe.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erica_Roe
I can remember one of those “where is she now” articles with her about 5 or 6 years after her famous streak. She had revelled in all the publicity and been asked to many a rugby club dinner afterwards. But who’would’ave thunk it – she was shocked at the number of dinners, a little the worse for wear after too much after diner port, who, without even asking her, fondled and pinched her breasts and asked when she was going to get her kit off and do a reprise for them ! Darling – why did you think they invited you – your sparking wit or incisive intellectual analysis of current world affairs ? She also moaned that people recognised her in the street as that girl who ran naked. I see from the WIKI page she now no longer lives In the UK.
I can remember travelling around London and seeing on huge billboard after billboard Romero’s image. I understand that the photo-shoot was entirely commercial. Iirc Pendleton’s photo-shoot was not commercial but still promoted widely by herself and freely used in magazine articles about her. [If I have that wrong will somebody please correct me.] Now what these two were doing is what every stripper in every nightclub does across the country – they selfishly gain personally with financial reward by presenting the whole of womankind as objects. Certainly all the boys in the office were talking about Romero and Pendleton at the time. Women = objects just like cars or motorbikes.
Now it may be coincidence but those two seemed to not love the sport that was giving them the greatest opportunities in their lives. Neither widened their outlook to look from the narrow view of track only, to testing themselves in the significantly more challenging environment of road racing. Quite where they were with their own views of themselves, I will leave you with your own opinions. That Pendleton needed so much support from Chimp-meister Steve Peters is relevant. Certainly reading Pendleton’s book left me with a negatively spiralling view of her. A young lady with a very distorted and unhealthy view of the wonderful breadth of opportunities presented to her.
Did we hear any counter claim about these images at the time? I think at British Cycling it suited the macho-think very well. The men are the serious athletes the competitors the public should admire, look at those little air-heads posing naked. Can any sane person say these girls are as committed as men to their sport, women’s racing, well, “roll eyes”.
And what of the impact of these types of antics ?. Women’s road cycling is not in a robust state of health. It desperately needs a quality blue chip sponsor. The women’s tour of GB just, by the narrowest of margins, got a decent sponsor at the last minute and I am so pleased it paid off so well for them. But to any major business looking for a sport to attach is brand image to ? My favourite account, I read somewhere else – Flora Margarine, a product whose principle purchasers were females. They were wanting to promote the link Flora = healthy living, don’t buy butter. They received presentations from a number of sports attempting to woo them, but dismissed them because of differential prizemoney male/female and that institutionally, female participants were deemed less worthy than their male counterparts. Instead they selected the London Marathon. Equal prizemoney and women’s exploits treated equally to those of their male counterparts. What would a Flora make of a sport where teams are allowed to garner more than their fair share of publicity by wearing a kit in which, whether by design or “accident”, they appeared to be naked from waist to crotch ? Do you know who won the Giro di Toscana ?
So on this point I am with Cookson.Second point.
So Angie Rojas is a 22 year old graduate and ex speed skater (how do you become “ex” at the age of 22 ?), who designed the kit to save the team a bit of money with a graphic design house. She submitted several designs but the sisterhood selected this one as the best and they all loved it. National and pill manufacturer bottle colours all in a nice design - who would have thunk that it would have created a world-wide media storm ?
They actually chose a kit was both incredible ugly and had gold [it’s not flesh] strategically placed within it. So that is two consecutive and concurrent mistakes made by a number of people.
So I am a middle aged bloke who spends most of his leisure time either cycling or cleaning his bikes. About two years ago I was aware of magazine articles criticising the latest bunch of film starlets for turning up to premiers in “Flesh” [not gold] dresses with a bit of colour over three strategic places. The theme of these articles was - don’t kid us that you like “flesh” colour, this is all about making sure the big photo on the page covering the event is of you and the star in the red dress just gets a little picture in the corner. Now I don’t go to the cinema very often at all, I get frustrated that I seem to sit on rows where the other occupants all seem to have bladders with a capacity of a thimble of fluid. Now if it can permeate to the dark reaches of the media unfriendly world that I inhabit “flesh” [it is not gold] is a scam a number of females are using, I have every confidence anyone involved in media work fully understands the use of Gold [it’s not flesh] for female attire.
And then even if I swallowed the “it’s the pill bottle colours” I would ask the question – why use that colour there ?
Cycling is a sport that has desensitised us to the lies. Too many stories in this sport never get exposed; the myth carries on for ever.
Let me flip that burger and see whether it is cooked on the other side.
“Girls are you interested. We are going to put a team together for this season. Start off in South America , and then move to Europe. I have a sponsor on board. No wages but all flights, accommodation kit and bikes all paid for and me and my mate Bazza are going to look after all the massages and bike maintenance for you. Nine months and we finish off at the World Champs. Did I mention massages, yes, ok let’s go on. Are you up for it ? “
A sponsor or team manager looking for a bigger sponsor for next year, is on board who very much understand that if the kit has “flesh” [I must remember to call it gold] around certain regions then sometime during the year there is going to be a media sh*t storm when somebody with both a brain and a voice notices. The kit is presented to the girls just before they go. A few dissenting voices, “yeah I suppose in a certain light it might look like that, but hey, we have no more money and if you don’t want to wear it, there are other girls on the shortlist who will, so do you want this holiday or not ?” After all, did Lizzie Armitstead stand her ground and say I am not riding in Dolmans kit that makes me look like somebody from the chorus of the Moulin Rouge gone cycle racing for a day ?
And then sure enough some months later there is the intended media sh*t storm.
The pill manufacturer puts out a press release stating that they never saw the design for approval and had nothing to do with it. Very strange that !
The heat is coming the way of the team management £20k either before or after the event to Angie Rojas and substantially less to each one of the team would buy a very different account to tell. “Girls – look at it like this – you have two choices - our team known throughout the globe and those who critise us labelled as nasty horrible people, when we are just trying to do our best on a shoestring and us simple innocent folk just did not spot all that flesh – damn-it remember to say it is gold - around your neither regions or you tell them that you never liked the kit in the first place and Bazza is always too enthusiastic with the massages. Our way and you get another holiday next year. Truth and we don’t run next year.” If you were team management what would you do at that point in time ? Try it on the girls or put your hand up and say, they told us it was weird.
Certainly I have been around women’s road racing to know that some very silly girls strike up some very improbable relationships with the certain male staff members in the team and have spouted out whatever they are asked to, knowing full well that it has no relation to fact. That has happened many times in the past and will happen many times in the future. I know what I can read. I am not confident I know what I should believe.Now, my BS detector is also often in the red zone when I listen to a president of the UCI.
I don’t care that I am not sure quite where the truth is in respect of the Bogata team kit. I do know that one totally unintended consequence is that Cookson’s response has brought him centre stage and there is a chance to ask him in front of the media “well actually Brian what are you doing for women’s cycling ?”. Now that really is something I am concerned about.