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Adidas Is Having A Supremely Awkward Olympic Season

Yesterday, Adidas gave into to public pressure and shelved its proposed JS Roundhouse Mid, a new sneaker with an accompanying plastic shackle. Adidas is a flagship sponsor for the 2012 Olympics in London—they're even making Team Great Britain's uniforms—and they didn't want to spark an uproar.


Or, I should say, another uproar: Adidas has long been accused of using sweatshops, and an April exposé in The Independent strengthened those charges:

While the German company – which unveiled its Stella McCartney-designed kit for British athletes last month – hopes to make £100m from its Olympic lines, the mainly young, female factory employees work up to 65 hours (25 hours more than the standard working week), for desperately low pay. They also endure verbal and physical abuse, they allege, are forced to work overtime, and are punished for not reaching production targets. None of the nine factories pays its employees a living wage – about 20 per cent higher than the official minimum wage – one of the cornerstones of the Ethical Trading Initiative (ETI) base code, an internationally recognised labour code adopted by the Olympics organising committee, Locog. Workers struggle to survive on pay as low as 5,000 rupiah (34p) an hour, skipping meals to save money, and sending their children away to be looked after by grandparents[...]"It's hard to get permission even to go to the bathroom; we're tied to our seats," said Yuliani, a 23-year-old seamstress, speaking metaphorically.

Those wages (34 pence is about 54 cents) are lower than those that called Oxfam Australia to action in 2005. So, despite a decade of occasional media attention, things haven't improved.

There are protests planned in London, and for their part, Olympic organizers say they're taking the claims "extremely seriously" and are "deeply concerned." (Their concern shouldn't make anyone feel much better.) Adidas, however, says that The Independent's investigation was poorly sourced and inaccurate.


Every Olympics, there's something murky to thwart the host city's sunshiney glee. A sweatshop-dependent sponsor assuredly makes things gloomy. Why'd London even bother with the fake clouds for the opening ceremony?


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