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2008年6月12日 (木)


2008/6/12 --The Asahi Shimbun, June 11(IHT/Asahi: June 12,2008)

EDITORIAL: Speedo swimsuits


After four months of wrangling, the situation is finally where it should be. Japanese swimmers are now free to wear a much-touted high-performance swimsuit from the British sportswear maker Speedo at the Beijing Olympics.


(wrangling=論争、すったもんだ) (touted=宣伝される、褒めちぎられる)

The controversy started in February when Speedo released the new swimsuit. In two months, 18 world records were established, of which 17 were set by swimmers wearing the suit. The "magic swimsuit" spread wonder across the world. But in Japan, swimmers were contractually obliged to wear swimsuits made by three domestic makers in Olympic competition.



(controversy=論争、議論) (contractually=契約上)

Sticking to domestic swimwear, the Japan Swimming Federation requested the Japanese makers, which had already released swimsuits for the Beijing Games, to develop new ones. Meanwhile, a growing number of Japanese swimmers tried the Speedo swimsuit--and broke records one after another.

Given the circumstances, it was time for the federation to recognize the Speedo swimsuit.


The problem concerning sports and equipment is old and new.


Some people voice concern that using advanced technology in swimwear distorts competition. It is the athletes who compete against one another and trying to win with advanced equipment is improper, they argue.



But sports and equipment have always advanced hand-in-hand. New technologies and equipment have brought out new human potential and helped athletes to meet new challenge, and break limits. Equipment makers are also required to constantly come up with new ideas.

In this regard, Japanese companies suffered a crushing defeat.



crushing=圧倒的な)(crushing defeat=完敗)

Japanese makers have traditionally attached importance to comfort to make it easier for swimmers to move and fully demonstrate their ability.


But Speedo was different. It passed over comfort and designed swimwear devoted to minimizing water resistance. It used ultrasonic welding technology to make the swimsuit seamless and tightened it to make the contour of the body as smooth as possible.


(ultrasonic welding technology=超音波加工技術) (contour=輪郭、外郭、外形)

When it comes to radical changes in thinking, the issue of speed skates comes to mind. It was before the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics that a Dutch maker developed speed skates whose heels detached from the blades. The new skates stormed the world in no time.


Japanese makers are good at polishing detailed technology and functions but lack the creativity to boldly move from conventional ideas. Perhaps this trait is common to Japanese manufacturing as a whole.



The federation was also late in responding to new ideas. Even though swimmers wearing a prototype of the new swimsuit did well in last year's world championships, it sat back and did nothing. Apparently, many federation executives were rooted to old ways of thinking and believed there was no way swimsuits could make such difference.



In the Beijing Olympics, there will be no difference between swimmers as far as swimwear is concerned. We hope to see an even higher level of competition among the swimmers themselves.


--The Asahi Shimbun, June 11(IHT/Asahi: June 12,2008)

朝日新聞 6月11日号 (英語版 2008年6月12日発行)


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