They’re made out of cardboard, but that isn’t why
Every two years, one of the primary story lines in the weeks leading up to the Olympics is the amount of sex the athletes will allegedly be having inside the Olympic village. A total of 450,000 condoms were distributed to Olympians in Rio in 2016, about 42 per athlete. Organizers in Pyeongchang in 2018 gave out 110,000, or about 38 per athlete.
The reputation of the Olympic Village as a haven for hanky panky is overblown, but it has been the subject of a viral myth on social media over the past few days. On Friday, American runner Paul Chelimo shared an Associated Press photo of the beds in the Olympic Village, noting that they were made out of cardboard in the interest of “avoiding intimacy among athletes.”
Chelimo appeared to be joking (and he was definitely joking when he said that bed-wetters have to worry about their beds crumbling beneath them) but that didn’t stop the claim from spreading like wildfire online and even in mainstream news outlets.
The idea of an “anti-sex bed” designed to collapse under the weight of two people should be obviously ridiculous in an environment where you have 90-pound gymnasts and 350-pound powerlifters, but that isn’t the only reason not believe the viral myth.
The real reason why the beds have been made out of cardboard is that it makes them easy to recycle. The Olympics are an environmental nightmare. It requires the construction of some temporary buildings and others that, while intended to be used long after the Games, sit abandoned and crumbling not long after. Building beds out of renewable materials is a way to ensure the Games are a little more sustainable.
The plan to bunk Olympians on cardboard beds was announced in January 2020. The bed frames will be recycled into paper products after the Games and the mattresses will be used to create plastic products. Organizers said that it would be the first time in the history of the Olympics that the beds and mattresses would be made from reusable materials.
The beds are capable of supporting about 440 pounds, Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Athletes Village, told the AP last year. Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan even proved that the beds are sturdy enough for extracurriculars by jumping up and down on his.
But whether or not the beds can handle it, Olympic officials are instructing athletes to avoid carousing during a Games that will be cautiously trying to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Athletes have been directed to avoid high fives and loud talking, and anyone associated with the Games has been told not to visit any restaurant that is open after 8 p.m. or that serves alcohol.
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