(Un)Popular Opinion

The Olympics Attire Fiasco Shows How Creatively Bankrupt M’sia Is

Is the creative scene doomed?
(Un)Popular Opinion | Over the past week or so, Malaysians were once again forced to bury their faces in shame, not because another politician swindled millions from the public or locals behaving badly overseas.

It was all thanks (or rather, no thanks) to a damn sports attire.

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Yup, you read it right. A country of 34 million people were dying from inner cringe after the official Olympics attire for the national contingent was unveiled to the public and suffice to say, it was nothing short of a disaster.

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Right from the get-go, I can already think of multiple words to describe the Olympics attire: Ugly. Uninspiring. Shoddy. Embarrassing. Cheap. In fact, I have so much to say that it might put the ‘God of Rap’ Eminem to shame.

And it seemed I wasn’t alone in having this opinion. X (formerly Twitter) quickly blew up as Malaysians roundly condemned the design and lamented that other countries in the West and Southeast Asia had uniforms fit for the fashion runway.

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Even foreign content creators couldn’t help but take a dig at the attire, where one Australian woman likened it to Pendidikan Jasmani uniform and remarked that it wouldn’t inspire Malaysians to “swell with pride” when they see it being worn.

And you know the design is awfully terrible when a local hypermarket chain such as Mydin pours cold water on it by cheekily suggesting that their workers’ attire would do the job better.

Initially, those behind the design were reluctant to change the Olympics attire, but perhaps realising that it would be foolish to do so, they relented and gave it an entirely new look which retained the iconic ‘Harimau Malaysia’ stripes.

And to their credit, they decided to use Soh Wooi Yik and Aaron Chia to display the new attire instead of those mannequins whose eyes were screaming ‘Give me the sweet release of death already!’

Despite the change, the fiasco has cemented the perception (including my own) that creativity, as a whole, is rather dead in Malaysia. It sounds harsh but there are plenty of reasons to believe so.

Underappreciated & despised

In the Malaysian education system, every Form 4 student is faced with an important choice: ‘Do I venture into the Arts or Science stream?’ And when that choice is made, there’s no turning back as it determines what they will study and eventually, their career path.

Call me a psychic but I’ll bet every Ringgit I have that the typical reaction parents or family members give when the student says they want to go into the Arts Stream is this: ‘Har? Arts stream? Got no future one! Only dumb students will do this!’

I know this based on personal experience. I studied at a national-type school as I was proficient in languages and didn’t have the talent for science-based subjects. Every time a teacher stepped into our class, the atmosphere was one of disgust and you could tell that the teacher would do anything to be done and over with us.

M'sian indian students
Photo via Malay Mail

However, this demeanor quickly changed when the teacher walked to another class brimming with Science stream students less than three feet away, where you can hear words of praise being heaped on them as if they could do no wrong.

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With such a level of discrimination and judgement being passed on Arts Stream students, it’s no wonder creativity is being viewed as a weakness instead of talent.

But perhaps you counter this and say, ‘Hey, that’s not true! My creative talents took me to places and everyone loves what I do!’ Well, all I can say is good for you but don’t expect it to be appreciated, let alone acknowledged, by those in power.

Don’t believe me? Take it from local designer Chia Yeo Bee Sean, who recently confessed how heartbroken she was to see her jersey design for the Paralympic Paris 2024 being tossed aside for no reason.

“We poured our hearts and souls into crafting a campaign that was more than just costume design; it was a heartfelt attempt to unite our nation and make Malaysia proud once again.

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The disappointment cuts deep. Seeing the ugly uniforms launched in such a humiliating manner is heartbreaking, but our efforts and passion will always stand as a testament to our unwavering dedication and love for our country.

“We believed in a vision that transcended mere fabric and stitches, a vision that sadly, was not realised. Yet, we hold our heads high, knowing we gave our all for Malaysia.”

Can we ever recover from this?

To be very honest, I don’t see much hope for the creative scene in Malaysia after seeing how disastrous the unveiling of the Olympics attire went and the pain local designers have to endure when their efforts go unrecognised.

I mean, who could ever forget this official logo that the Tourism Board thought was a good idea to launch for ‘Visit Malaysia 2020’ and even defended it as “fun”?
Visit malaysia 2020 logo
Photo via BBC

But as the old adage goes, ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’, the Malaysian society has to start undoing the years of damage done to those born with a creative flair by encouraging them to work on their talents instead of beating them down and labelling them as ‘stupid’.

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Also, those in positions of power should no longer subscribe to obsolete ideas that worked in the past but are irrelevant today. After all, the world in constantly changing and so should their design methods too.

And for heaven’s sake, please hire designers who are actually competent for the job and give them the credit that is due.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and does not purport to reflect the opinions or views of WeirdKaya.


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