Elite athletes train their entire lives with the hopes of just sniffing an Olympics.
We're talking three-a-days, hours of physical therapy, film sessions and additional weight-lifting and cross-training. Macrobiotic diets without sugar, alcohol, dairy or fun, tbh. Early mornings, late nights and no time or energy for evenings out with friends, parties, even major family events. The type of sacrifice most of us couldn't being to imagine.
And yet with one July 2012 ESPN exposé in which American target shooter Josh Lakatos joked about "running a friggin' brothel in the Olympic Village" at the 2000 games, the entire Olympics experience was reduced to a two-week-long bacchanalia for those with muscles and endurance to spare where the real games began long after the starting pistols are fired.
Or as the silver medalist put it, describing the time he watched the the entire 4x100 women's relay team of one Scandinavian country walk out of the three-story home he shared with his teammates (aptly dubbed Shooters' House), followed by athletes from the U.S. track team: "I've never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life."
Pair that bombshell report with news Durex would be supplying the village in London that year with some 150,000 condoms (and the fact that hook-up app Grindr crashed shortly after athletes began arriving in England) and let's just say people were titillated, jokes about athletes' stamina and ability to perform like low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking.
By the time the 2016 summer games rolled around in Rio de Janeiro—admittedly one of the sexiest cities on earth—the allotment had tripled, the International Olympics Committee providing 350,000 condoms, an additional 100,000 female condoms and 175,000 packets of lubricant for the 10,500 athletes. As in 42 condoms per athlete, averaging out to two-and-a-half a day.
So, uh, were things really that hot in the Southern Hemisphere?
"It is an absolutely huge allocation of condoms," Olympic rowing gold and silver medallist Zac Purchase, then retired after appearances in London and Beijing, acknowledged in a 2016 interview with The Guardian. "But it is all so far from the truth of what it's like to be in there. It's not some sexualized cauldron of activity. We're talking about athletes who are focused on producing the best performance of their lives."
And afterwards? Perhaps an even greater performance? (Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.) "There is a lot of celebration," Purchase admitted to the British outlet, "but it's very controlled."
The official condom count dates back to the 1988 summer games in Seoul when some of the 8,500 prophylactics distributed to raise awareness and stop the spread of the HIV epidemic reportedly made their way up to the roofs of Olympic residences, leading the Olympic Association to ban outdoor sex.
By 2000, organizers in Sydney were having to scramble to procure an additional 20,000 condoms after their initial haul of 70,000 were used up, with at least an Oakley duffel bag's worth stationed at Shooters' House.
In short, as women's soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo—a two-time gold medalist and veteran of the 2008, 2012 and 2016 games—put it to ESPN, "There's a lot of sex going on."
Twelve-time medalist Ryan Lochte, who narrowly missed qualifying for what would have been his fifth Olympic trip to Tokyo last year, estimated bedroom activities to be taking place between "70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians." Now a married father of two, at the time he was eagerly looking ahead to London having regretfully turned up to Beijing in 2008 as an attached man.
Those in the know described to the outlet an Olympic Village akin to welcome week at college—except everyone wandering around the dorms is in peak physical condition and chock full of testosterone and excess energy as their intense training regimens give way to tapering.
"When I walked in for the first time in Atlanta," women's soccer player Brandi Chastain detailed, "there were loud cheers. So we look over and see two French handballers dressed only in socks, shoes, jockstraps, neckties and hats on top of a dining table, feeding one another lunch. We're like, 'Holy cow, what is this place?'"
Joked her teammate Julie Foudy, now an ESPN analyst, "We'd graze over our food for hours watching all the eye candy, wondering why I got married."
But for many it wasn't just window shopping. Athletes described the quarters as a place that united thousands of at-the-top-of-their-game athletes from around the world with like-minded individuals who get the drain of pre-dawn workouts and limited opportunities to make romantic connections.
"Unlike at a bar, it's not awkward to strike up a conversation because you have something in common," Solo explained. "It starts with, 'What sport do you play?' All of a sudden, you're fist-bumping."
For alpine skier Carrie Sheinberg, the top U.S. finisher in the slalom at the 1994 games in Lillehammer, Norway, the campuses—equipped with everything from a 24-hour gym (duh) to banks, post offices and even a salon—were "just a magical, fairy-tale place, like Alice in Wonderland, where everything is possible," she said. "You could win a gold medal and you can sleep with a really hot guy."
Preferably in that order. As Olympic table tennis player Matthew Syed described in a 2008 interview with the Times of London, which led TMZ to write that the village had "more sex than Woodstock," athletes with gold medal dreams "have to display an unnatural…level of self-discipline in the build-up to big competitions. How else is this going to manifest itself than with a volcanic release of pent-up hedonism."
So while competing in the 1992 Games in Barcelona as a 21-year-old, he copped to getting "laid more often in those two and a half weeks than the rest of my life up to that point."
It was kind of a kid-in-a-candy-shop feel, admitted American javelin thrower Breaux Greer.
During his daily walks to practice fields, "the girls are in skimpy panties and bras, the dudes in underwear, so you see what everybody is working with from the jump," he observed to ESPN. "Even if their face is a 7, their body is a 20."
So while the shaggy-haired blonde placed no higher than 12th in his three consecutive Olympics experiences, he certainly scored in Sydney, estimating he made the company of some three women a day—including a hurdler and an accomplished pole vaulter—all of whom appeared to be aiming to, as he put it, "complete the Olympics training puzzle."
Though many athletes wait until after their events to take part in extracurriculars, "others have hookups between practices because they say sex actually helps them reach for the gold," a source at the 2016 games told E! News. And Greer was definitely in that camp. "I was a happy man going into competition," he told ESPN. "If you find somebody you like and who likes you, your world's complete for a second, and you compete well."
Technological advancements made it even easier to find a willing teammate, U.S. snowboarder Jamie Anderson telling Us Weekly during the 2014 games in Sochi, "Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level. It's all athletes! In the mountain village it's all athletes. It's hilarious. There are some cuties on there." (And yet she managed to meet her new fiancé, fellow Olympic snowboarder Tyler Nicholson, the old-fashioned way: At a bar.)
By 2016, four years after the app's release, usage in the village was up 129 percent, the source telling E! News, "Many of the athletes prefer to meet other athletes on Tinder and other dating apps because that's easier, and then they do group dates with other athlete friends."
There's particular safety in numbers when your romantic skills aren't quite up to par with your physical ones. "Many of these women and men have been out of the dating game or never in the dating game before the Olympics," explained the source, "so it's a lot to take in for these athletes, especially after training so hard to be here."
And all of that is nothing compared to the waning hours of the trip, as more and more athletes wrap up their events.
ESPN's piece described a messier version of finals week—complete with actual socks hanging from doorknobs to indicate when roommates are definitely not welcome. "It turns into a frat party with a very nice gene pool," detailed Foudy.
For her and her teammates, the chance to party often doesn't come until the Closing Ceremony, the gold medal soccer match taking place with just days left.
"This is our chance to let loose," noted Chastain. "Our hair is on fire, we're leaving the next morning, and we're going to enjoy our last 24 hours." (Like, realllly enjoy it. Solo described a situation that saw her and some teammates partying with Vince Vaughn and comedian Steve Byrne in Beijing back in 2008, even managing to bring the whole group into the village past a few rather unobservant guards. "I may have snuck a celebrity back to my room without anybody knowing, and snuck him back out," she teased. "But that's my Olympic secret.")
The way Solo sees it, Olympians can't help but be an all-in bunch. "Athletes are extremists," she shared. "When they're training, it's laser focus. When they go out for a drink, it's 20 drinks. With a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you want to build memories, whether it's sexual, partying or on the field. I've seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty."
After all, there's business to be accomplished even if you're not one of the lucky few that walk away with shiny new hardware and an endorsement deal or two.
"It's also about finding something new," Sheinberg told ESPN of the magical whimsy of this strangest of fairy-tale locales. "Olympians are adventurers. They look for a challenge, like having sex with someone who doesn't speak their language."
By all means, let the games begin.
(This story was originally published on Wednesday, July 21, 2021 at 3 a.m. PT.)