Watching the Olympics my thoughts never strayed from the action on the field, or the court, or the mat. Well, almost never. I may have been distracted once or twice during the beach volleyball matches. Which means that either I am a true sports fan or that I have gotten really old. Or both !
In actuality, there seem to have been games played both on and off the court and that’s only to be expected. You can’t have so many young, healthy people at the peak of their physical development to live close together in the Olympic Village , away from intruding chaperones, without doing something about it. In addition to willing fellow athletes, they also are surrounded by large numbers of ‘sports groupies’ eager to participate in the festivities. As at Woodstock or Las Vegas or Cancun , there must be the feeling that ” This time will never come again. Let’s make the most of it.” and ” What happens here, stays here.”
The Olympic organisers , mindful of today’s reality, have done what they can to promote responsible sex by making condoms available to the Olympic athletes. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, the 65,000 condoms that were provided quickly ran out and the organisers had to send out for an emergency shipment of 20,000 more. At Athens in 2004, the organisers were better prepared and had 130,000 condoms on hand. The athletes at the Beijing Olympics seem to have been comparatively less libidinous. Of the 100, 000 condoms that the organisers had made available, fully two-thirds had not been availed of at the end of the first week. Final numbers are not yet in and it’s likely things may have picked up as athletes finished with their events and were able to relax. The swimmers were the luckiest in this regard since they were done with their events in the first week and were then free to pursue things other than gold medals. And, of course to have a gold medal, or even a silver or a bronze medal, exponentially increased one’s popularity.
Matthew Syed writing in the Times of London ( not N.Y) had an interesting anecdote to relate. It seems that one British athlete was having a hard time getting any rest the night before his competition because of all the activity going on the adjacent rooms, He actually had to tell his neighbors to tone it down so that he could get at least some sleep ! Syed should know what he’s talking about since he was in Sydney (in 2000) and Athens (2004) as a competitor and in Beijing (2008) as a reporter.
Things have come a long way from the ancient Olympics held in Greece where only men were allowed to compete and did so in the nude. Women were not allowed even as spectators . One woman , whose son was competing in the Olympics, disguised herself as a man and snuck into the stands. Her son won and , in her joy, she jumped up and cheered for him thus revealing herself to be a woman. The penalty for disobeying the rule was death but the judges took into consideration the special circumstances of the case and pardoned her.
The ancient wisdom was that indulging in sex would weaken an athlete and dramatically affect his performance. Athletes were therfore told to abstain from sex during the games and the well known Greek physician Galen even recommended that athletes sleep with heavy lead plates over their loins to damp down their desires. Ouch ! This proscription of sex prior to athletic contests has carried down to this day and, in the week prior to the Super Bowl, players’ wives are barred from their accomodations. Hmm… I wonder if sexual indulgence was the cause of some of the failures at Beijing . We’ll never know.