While synchronized swimming, or artistic swimming as it is now known by Olympic organizers, isn’t as popular today as it was during its heyday in the 1950s, those who do tune in to the Olympics to watch the sport’s various events often come away with the same thought: Can you believe those costumes? Over the years, synchronized swimmers have adopted increasingly elaborate and creative costumes.
Although Hollywood stars like Esther Williams helped make synchronized swimming popular in the 1950s, the sport didn’t become an official Olympic sport until three decades later. In the early years of Olympic synchronized swimming, competitors’ costumes were far less intricate and embellished than the suits we see now. In fact, synchronized swimming costumes at the 1984 Olympics tended to feature just one or two colors and simple patterns such as stripes or polka dots.
Over time, however, competitors began opting for more elaborate rhinestone-encrusted costumes. At the 2016 Rio Olympics, for example, Russia’s duet team sparkled in glittery silver-and-black suits embellished with Michael Jackson’s face. It was the perfect complement to their routine, which also paid homage to the King of Pop.
The current Olympic Games happening in Tokyo have also brought spectators a number of fantastically creative synchronized swimming costumes. Svetlana Kolesnichenko and Svetlana Romashina of the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) took home the gold medal in artistic swimming’s duet competition wearing suits that featured giant spiders.
Dive in below for a look at some of the best Olympic synchronized swimming costumes: