SPORTS

Fakes discarded; Egypt's Olympic athletes will get to wear genuine brand after all

07/27/2012 03:11 EDT | Updated 09/26/2012 05:12 EDT
LONDON - Egypt's Olympic team won't be wearing Chinese knockoffs at the London Games, after all.

Two days after the country's Olympic committee chairman said he had opted for fakes because the real thing was just too expensive, Nike said Friday it was donating gear to the Egyptian athletes.

"We are extremely happy that while these athletes are enjoying the greatest sporting event they will be able to wear genuine Nike product," the company said in a statement.

Egypt's committee chairman admitted earlier this week that the committee decided to go cheap because the designer sports labels, whose goods can range in price from $300 to $500 per athlete, were not something it could afford given Egypt's precarious economy.

The country's popular uprising and the 17 months of political uncertainty that followed drove away investors. Egypt's tourism industry took a big hit, and the country's foreign currency reserves have dropped by more than one-half since the uprising.

But athletes complained about the knockoffs. Synchronized swimmer Yomna Khallaf tweeted it was "frustrating" she had to spend more than $300 of her own money to buy training gear she could work with. The fakery, she said, included bags with large Nike logos on the front, and zippers with "Adidas" on them.

"It's good news for us," the head of the Egyptian delegation in London, Maj. Gen. Ahmed Fouly, said following the announcement. "I thank them for this effort."

Nike's official distributor in Egypt said it first learned about the team's counterfeit gear when some of the athletes approached them to exchange sizes.

"We sent a notification to (Egypt's) Olympic committee and they didn't take it seriously," said Shaher el-Shafei, marketing director for the distributor, Allied Trading and Consultancy.

El-Shafei said they offered to sell the team outfits that included a tracksuit, T-shirt, socks, a pair of shoes and flip-flops for about $215 each, while the Chinese distributor sold the same for about $90 each.

Egypt's Sports Federation set up a committee to investigate the counterfeit clothes and the country's chief prosecutor was investigating the case.

Fouly rejected the notion that going public with the fake goods was intended to pressure Nike into handing the gear over for free.

"For Nike, this is very good," Fouly noted. He added that Egypt's government had offered to pay for the gear on Thursday, but Nike then said it would provide it all for free.

Nike's shipment isn't due to arrive in London until Saturday.

___

Associated Press writer Aya Batrawy contributed to this story from Cairo.

MORE:cpSports