Malaysian sports fans maul gold tiger-themed Olympics uniforms

After a barrage of complaints, Olympic Council of Malaysia says it will tweak the national uniforms.
Iman Muttaqin Yusof
2024.06.28
Kuala Lumpur
Malaysian sports fans maul gold tiger-themed Olympics uniforms Malaysian Olympic officials Hamidin Mohd Amin (from left), Norza Zakaria and Nicol Ann David display mannequins dressed in athletes’ uniforms for the Paris games in July during their unveiling at The Exchange TRX mall in Kuala Lumpur, June 23, 2024.
Courtesy of Olympic Council of Malaysia

Malaysian sports officials announced Friday they would tame athletes’ uniforms for the Paris Olympics after being deluged with complaints via social media that the gold tiger-themed togs are a national embarrassment.

During an unveiling ceremony on June 23, officials said the color used in the designs highlighted the nation’s quest for its first-ever Olympic gold medal, when Malaysia’s delegation of 25 athletes competes at the Summer Games, which open in the French capital on July 26.

The Southeast Asian nation is home to the Malayan Tiger, and the orange and black-striped big cat has been a symbol for national sports teams for years.

“After considering feedback from the Youth and Sports minister, the National Sports Council, and sports fans, Olympic Council of Malaysia [OCM] acknowledges that the design of the official [apparel] did not meet expectations,” OCM President Norza Zakaria said in a statement to BenarNews.

“OCM will discuss with Yonex to improve the design to better reflect the country’s stature and meet the public expectations,” he said.

The committee did not announce when the new uniforms would be released to competitors. Yonex has been the official apparel sponsor for the Malaysian national athletes since 2014 and will be involved in redesigning the apparel.

While Malaysia has never won a gold medal since it began competing in the games in 1956, cyclist Azizulhasni Awang won a silver medal and badminton doubles team Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik won bronze in the 2020 Tokyo games. Of the 13 medals won over the years, nine were in badminton.

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Mohd Azizulhasni Awang of Team Malaysia poses with his silver medal during a medal ceremony for the men’s keirin race at the 2020 Summer Olympics, in Izu, Japan. Aug. 8, 2021. [Thibault Camus/AP]

In Paris, Malaysia will be competing in seven sports – diving, sailing, shooting, archery, cycling, weightlifting and badminton.

Following the June 24 ceremony to reveal the 2024 Malaysian Olympic design on track suits, polo shirts, t-shirts and jackets, social media users pounced, describing the display as “embarrassing” and “hideous.” 

Many did not approve of replacing the traditional red, blue, yellow and white national flag with a gold-themed one on jackets.

Comments to a post on the Olympic Council of Malaysia Facebook page announcing the uniform include: “... If you’re ashamed to stand by your colours, you better seek for another flag ...”, Ahmad Kucher; Ugly is the only world to describe this year’s Olympics uniform. Who approved that design? Bringing shame to the country’s reputation in the Olympics, Alan Lua; Olympic Council of Malaysia Board of Directors should be fired for approving this hideous design, Syahir Manif.

Norza said the flag complaint was not merited.

“The gold version of the OCM logo, featuring the national flag and the five Olympic rings, adheres to International Olympic Committee [IOC] guidelines,” Norza said in the statement, adding the logo is not an “altered or modified” Malaysian flag.

IOC rules require that the locking blue, yellow, black, green and red rings of the Olympic logo must be used on a white background, he said.

“If the background is not white, a monochrome version should be used. For instance, on a black background, the logo should be in a contrasting color like white, yellow or blue,” Norza said.

Minister: Stay focused

On Thursday, Sports Minister Hannah Yeoh defended the council and urged the Malaysian athletes preparing for next month’s games to ignore negative comments and focus on their Olympics mission.

“OCM is responsible for the design of these jerseys. We must respect OCM’s sponsorship agreement with Yonex. I am confident that OCM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria will address the issue,” Yeoh told reporters in Kuala Lumpur.

She noted that the athletes would wear special uniforms during the Opening Ceremony’s Parade of Nations.

Another OCM official, Hamidin Mohd Amin, called on the public to stop expressing dissatisfaction over trivial matters, specifically the uniforms.

“With 30 days left until the Olympics, the media and fans need to support our athletes, not question small things like colors and [a] design like this. Even if the color is beautiful, if we do not achieve gold or medals, it is of no use,” he told reporters after visiting an Olympic badminton athlete training in Kuala Lumpur.

Hamidin said the decision to switch from the longstanding orange design was in collaboration with Yonex. 

“We have agreed with Yonex to showcase the color gold because we are aiming for gold, that’s actually the theme. This change comes after athletes had previously urged the OCM for a new color scheme,” he said. 

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Hamidin Mohd Amin (right), the official who will lead the Malaysian contingent at the Paris Olympics, meets with the nation’s top badminton player, Lee Zii Jia, at the Sentosa Sport Arena in Kuala Lumpur, June 25, 2024 [Courtesy Olympic Council of Malaysia]
Meanwhile, social media users reacted to news of the upcoming changes.

“Accepting public criticism is great. Not all criticism signals hatred, but is for the country’s image. The Olympics do not belong to individuals, but to all Malaysians,” Niu Baru wrote on Facebook.

Another Facebook user offered a suggestion for improving designs.

“If there are no ideas, they can just ask young local designers for their designs ... that would be better than what’s currently available, which is so mediocre,” Nadhrah Rosadaniza commented on the social media site.

Meanwhile, others hope the council will avoid using the stripe motif, the country’s common choice for international sports apparel designs.

“Hopefully something fresh comes out, and ideally something that doesn’t toy with tiger motifs as Malaysia is far more than just tigers being overused for fashion apparel,” Ernest said on X.

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