From the moment it was announced that Rio de Janeiro would hold the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, the jokes started flying about what would happen when all those perfectly sculpted bodies collide at the Olympic Village. In fact, the International Olympic Committee is so certain of the amorous effects of the Marvelous City—with its curving coastline, jutting mountains, and Rio natives of all shapes, sizes, and ages jogging on the city’s famous beaches in G-strings—that officials have ordered a record number of prophylactics.
Officials have ordered 450,000 condoms for the more than 10,000 athletes housed in the Olympic Village.
According to the Folha de São Paulo newspaper, which broke the story in May, the IOC is providing 350,000 male condoms, 100,000 female condoms, and 175,000 packets of lubricant. That works out to 42 “camisinhas,’’ Brazilian slang for condoms, per athlete. (In Brazilian slang, the term means “little shirts.’’ )
“This is considered sufficient to encourage athletes to practice safe sex while in Brazil for the Olympic Games,” the IOC told Folha.
Sex between gorgeous athletes at the height of their physical powers is hardly surprising—or new. The Olympic Village, typically a raucous ring of condos, houses, hair salons, barbershops, restaurants, and nightclubs, is far from a prudish milieu.
Recognizing the basic forces of nature, officials began passing out free condoms at Seoul in 1988. (Apparently, nobody had high expectations: that number was only 8,500.) But things heated up over the next several games: In Sydney in 2000, officials had to scramble to add 20,000 condoms to the 70,000 that ran out midway through the Games.
This time, it seems, the IOC is taking no chances. The mosquito-borne Zika virus, an epidemic in Brazil, can cause mild flu-like symptoms among healthy adults. But its effects on the fetuses of women who contract the virus in early pregnancy can be devastating. Many babies exposed to the virus in utero are born with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, as well as some developmental delays. The Australian team is coming especially prepared: the Aussies will be armed with special antiviral condoms that may provide extra protection against Zika.
Scientists have confirmed that Zika can be sexually transmitted. It is unclear how long people infected by the virus remain contagious, but it appears to be at least several weeks.
Perhaps that is why the IOC is providing triple the 150,000 condoms it offered in London in 2012, when athletes each received 15 for the 17-day Games. Coverage of the sporting events came a close second to reporting about the athletes’ extracurricular events, and the tabloids outdid each other with juicy headlines. The Mirror wrote: “Gay app Grindr crashes as Olympic athletes arrive in London.” The Daily Mail asked, “Could London 2012 be the raunchiest games ever?” and CBS wondered: “Olympic Village: Business or Pleasure?”
Even in ice-bound Sochi in 2014, things got hot. Olympic snowboarder Jamie Anderson told Us magazine that athletes made ample use of dating apps: “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.”
Anderson eventually reined herself in: “There was a point where I had to be like, ‘OK, this is way too distracting,’” she told Us about Tinder. “I deleted my account to focus on the Olympics.” (That seemed to pay off: Anderson won a gold medal.)
Athletes aren’t shy about discussing their prowess off the, um, playing field. In 2000, American target shooter Josh Lakatos decided to stay on in Sydney after his event, and managed to convince a chambermaid to let him stay in his room by himself. (Most athletes have roommates.)
Others did the same, according to ESPN, including Team USA track and field team members. “The next morning,” Lakatos told ESPN, “swear to God, the entire women’s 4x100 relay team of some Scandinavian-looking country walks out of the house, followed by boys from our side. And I’m just going, ‘Holy crap, we’d watched these girls run the night before.’” For the next eight days, Lakatos looked on, amazed, as male and female athletes wandered into his complex. It was called “the Shooter’s House,” and everyone was loaded with condoms they’d gotten at the village clinic.
“I’m running a friggin’ brothel in the Olympic Village!” Lakatos told the network. “I’ve never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life.”
These sideline celebrations put to bed the belief that sexual gymnastics can somehow undercut an athlete’s performance on the pommel horse. “It’s a complete myth,” said Dr. Michael Joyner, a sports physiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
There are various stories of how this view took hold. One version traces the pre-game ban on sex to some infamous pregame bacchanals involving professional soccer players in the 1970s and ’80s, said Dr. Antonio Nóbrega, a sports physiologist at the Federal Fluminense University in Niterói, a Rio suburb. “The story is that they stayed out all night having sex, dancing and drinking ’til 8 in the morning,” Nobrega said. “They came back to the hotel totally exhausted and slept for a few hours before their games. This doesn’t help physical performance, but really, they were out dancing all night, having sex, drinking, and probably taking drugs and somehow everybody just blamed sex,” Nobrega said.
“But let’s be realistic,” he added. “The sex act is a physical activity for not too long—20, 30 minutes. The exertion is the same as a brief run, depending. We’re talking about people in the best shape of their lives, who exercise for a living. They know what they’re doing.”
He paused. “Good for them!”