Chinese basketball player Yao Ming (centre) and fellow Olympians wearing
their Opening Ceremony uniforms. Right: The popular dish of tomato and fried
Critics are trashing China's new and eye-wrenchingly gaudy Olympic Opening Ceremony uniform, which has become the butt of widespread derision.
Chinese bloggers have been taking potshots at the outfit, dubbing it the "tomato scrambled egg" uniform because of its uncanny resemblance to the popular Chinese dish.
"The design is too awful," wrote one. "Like [something] peasants coming to the city [would wear]."
Predictably, the uniform, which was unveiled last week, is based on a palate of red and yellow, evoking China's national colours.
Blog: Beijing's costume drama
The uniform will be worn by China's team of 1099 athletes and officials when they parade around the National Stadium at the Opening Ceremony on Friday week.
The outfit comprises red jacket, yellow shirt and white pants for men, and yellow jacket, red shirt and white dress for women.
The problem lies with the shade of red used by the designers.
Instead of a rich vermillion red, they chose a watermelon red - a shade of red that borders on pink. According to some reports, the red cloth incorporates light-reflecting materials, which may account for the unusual hue.
When the athletes congregate, the blend of colours resembles the egg and tomato dish that has almost become a staple in many homes and restaurants.
"When the Chinese delegation comes out, they will certainly catch the eyes of the audience," the outfit's designer, Liu Ruiqi, told The China Daily.
The state-run newspaper didn't make it clear whether the Liu Ruiqi it quoted was the same Liu Ruiqi who is the chairman of the Hengyuanxiang Company Ltd, which selected the winning design from thousands of entries in a year-long competition.
Hengyuanxiang, a leading Chinese wool producer and clothing retailer, is a major sponsor of the Beijing Olympics. And this is not the first time the company has caused Olympic-related friction.
This year it was forced to pull a commercial described as "the most excruciatingly annoying ad on Chinese TV".
"When they first saw the ad, some people thought their TV sets were broken," The Wall Street Journal reported.
The 60-second commercial promoting the Olympic sponsorship deal featured what the newspaper described as a "squeaky girl's voice [that] chirps out a triplicate list of each of the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac, interspersed with repetitions of the company's slogan by an adult voice".
The newspaper said the ad was so bad that other advertisers using the same TV channel complained because viewers were changing stations as soon as the spot appeared.
But with less than a fortnight to go before the Opening Ceremony, there's little likelihood of the gaudy uniform getting pulled.