Japanese swimmers and their Speedos

Marketing and PR specialists spend many hours wondering how to penetrate editorial minds. How is content decided? Who will get covered? What is ‘news’?
As we often notice, stories involving sex, drugs and violence are popular, as are items that have an international political dimension, or pertain to natural disasters. However, there are times when things get into the news and we are left scratching our heads as to why valuable column inches have been devoted to them.

A recent example is Japanese swimmers’ swimsuits. Apparently, Japanese swimwear manufacturers Mizuno, Descente and Asics are petrified at the thought that the Japan national swimming team might shed their homemade lycra in favor of British trunks made by Speedo. According to Reuters, in an article that was slapped into such heavyweight newspapers as the UK’s Guardian, “Faced with the threat of Japan's swimmers switching to Speedo's controversial LZR bodysuit, Mizuno, Descente and Asics unveiled hastily designed new hi-tech suits on Friday.”

Other reports give us more details of the design battle for the best trunks for professional swimmers. Canada’s CBC reports, “The Speedo LZR Racer has made a huge splash, with 37 out of 41 world records set since February made by swimmers wearing the suit. In previous Olympic years, about five world records are typically set leading up to the Games.” All credit for the pun but can these swimmers' victories really be attributed to the shape of their costumes? If so, perhaps the sport’s authorities need to think carefully. AFP gets even more excited with its write-up of events that claims that the Speedo LZR “was designed with the help of US space agency NASA.”

The Yomiuri meanwhile saw fit not only to report this story but to include an opinion piece on how the Japan Swimming Federation (JSF) are to blame in all of this for “its failure to keep up with the latest developments in global swimsuit design and technology.” The angry tone here alleges that not using the Speedo costume is seriously hampering Japanese swimming ambitions internationally. The organization will have an extraordinary board meeting next week to decide whether or nor athletes will be allowed to wear Speedo suits. This may be a valid point but come on, clearly there are some business interests here that deserve some real investigative reporting or opinion. What is the JSF’s relationship with the swimsuit manufacturers? Who are Speedo’s allies here?

This kind of ‘news’ is only interesting if reporters go some way to connecting the dots rather than just reprinting the basic outline of the press release or what comes off a wire. Opinion pieces that miss the point entirely go little way to improving this. And yes, it is nice to see some pictures of Kosuke Kitajima and Aya Terakawa in their smalls but a real ‘splash’ would be to find out what is really going on here, or to question how much difference it really makes—undoubtedly equipment plays a key role in any sport but surely it is not the deciding factor in swimming. If so, perhaps the sport’s regulators should equalize opportunity by making all competitors swim naked.

Guardian (Reuters)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/feedarticle/7550982

CBC
http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/story/2008/05/30/f-olympics-newswimsuits.html

AFP
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jB83gAgsCPoA8q4d3vjNz5IX_Q2A
 
Yomiuri
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/sports/20080526TDY03104.htm


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Comments

According to reports, the swimsuits make the athlete 1 second quicker than they would be in any other suit. I guess this is a huge amount for such a closely timed sport. But I agree, if this is such a big issue, then looking into the vested interests of different sponsors would be more interesting.

It's true that your swim suit can affect your time, but I think there should be a general rule for all swim teams that they must wear a certain suit when competing. It's not fair to one team if the other is wearing something that makes them swim faster. That being said, the suit is not the only thing to consider. It is more about the stroke a person has than the suit they are wearing!

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