Olympic villages are tightly guarded temporary cities for thousands of athletes, but these neighborhoods have become something of a cheeky mystery in pop culture. What are they doing in there?
To the casual spectator, the Olympic Village is a mysterious place, an international melting pot with a reputation for hedonism. It’s a pop-up Casablanca. As the saying goes, "What happens in the village, stays in the village"—for the most part. Here’s the dirt on what we’ve come to know.
Olympians live highly-regimented, incredibly stressful lives as they prepare to compete on the international stage. Athletes are often separated from their families, subjected to training schedules that could easily qualify as full-time jobs, and frequently underpaid and unsponsored. So it’s rare that competitors actually get the chance to cut loose from the grind and just do what they want to do for once. Can you imagine the pent-up stress you’d want to detonate on the streets of your host country after your duties at the Games were done? Well, we know a guy who did exactly that.
In one of the best stories to come out of the Olympic Village ever. U.S. target shooter Josh Lakatos was reportedly midway through the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney with a choice to make. His events were over, and he’d been told to lock up the three-story compound that his team had leased for the duration of their stay, turn over the keys, and return home. He followed every rule but the last one. Lakatos reportedly rigged the lock and launched what can only be described as an epic party-slash-sexual playground in some stranger’s mansion.
ESPN described the scene: "…And on it went for eight days as scores of Olympians, male and female, trickled into the shooter’s house—and that’s what everyone called it, Shooters’ House—at all hours, stopping by an Oakley duffel bag overflowing with condoms procured from the village’s helpful medical clinic. After a while, it dawned on Lakatos: ‘I’m running a friggin’ brothel in the Olympic Village! I’ve never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life.’"
So let’s take a moment to salute an American hero. Lakatos may not have medaled that year, but dammit, we would argue that he still won gold in our hearts.
Yes, they are having hooking up … a lot
Let’s drop the euphemisms. You want to know the truth about the Olympic Village? Athletes are banging, boffing, getting down, hooking up, and getting in. They’re going Dionysus on each other, debauched in the traditions of the Greek god. A swimmer and an archer, sitting in a tree F-blank-blank-blank-I-N-G.
This is not exaggeration: just ask U.S. women’s soccer goalkeeper Hope Solo about the outdoor rows. "I’ve seen people having sex right out in the open," she told ESPN, recalling the 2012 Games in London. "On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty. There’s a lot of sex going on."
Asked to estimate how many athletes would be focusing on amorous activities in the Village after dark, U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte dished to ESPN. "I’d say it’s 70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians," he said, adding "Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do."
A smorgasbord of physiques
It’s time to get real for a second. The Olympic Village is a zoo of human celebration. We’ve got all physiques on display, all trades, all skills, the high jumpers, the heavy lifters, the cyclists. There’s something and someone for every taste and type.
One unnamed male swimmer told ESPN he prefers soccer girls because they’re "all hot, and they dress like rock stars." BMX biker Jill Kintner said she has a fondness for the male gymnasts: "They’re like lovable little Ewoks." But it’s the swim team that seems to be the serious draw. Artistic gymnast Alicia Sacramone, whose team shared some facilities with swimmers and water polo competitors at the Beijing Games in 2008, says the finest physiques in the village are no contest: "As far as best bodies, it’s swimmers and water polo players, because that’s an insane workout."
A delicate balancing act
Jokes aside, the sexually-charged atmosphere of the Olympic Village truly does have effects on athletic performance. "If you don’t have discipline, the village can be a huge distraction," soccer star Solo told ESPN .
Sex can become an aspect of strategy. Get laid now and run your hardest with a post-coital glow? Or wait until the end and run to your reward at world-record pace? U.S. javelin star Breaux Greer candidly talked about his multiple Olympic partners, explaining to ESPN that they were all looking to "complete the Olympics training puzzle."
The hedonism has sparked protest
With the eyes of the world on the Olympic Games, it’s no surprise that a number of groups have used the occasion to stage protests, but only once did the Games trigger a protest focused specifically on the issue of athletes boinking each other.
At the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, a conservative, pro-abstinence, anti-abortion group called Generation Life organized five days of protests against the Games. Specifically, the group protested the Games’ policy of making condoms available in abundance. "We want to expose the horrific realities of abortion, tie in our message of chastity and tell people that condoms are not that safe," the group’s director told The New York Times.
A spokesperson for an Olympic sponsor who donated condoms, Cardinal Health, Inc., defended its decision. ”We’re not distributing them. They’re available like aspirin, Tylenol and bandages. It’s good public health policy.”
Before hookup apps, there was e-mail
Don’t think that this sexual liberation at the Olympics is a new thing. On the contrary, athletes have been hooking up at the Games since the beginning. They’ve also been taking advantage of every technological advancement that they could along the way.
According to a Women’s Sports & Fitness article from around the time of the 2000 Sydney Games, the 1992 Olympic Village featured a special email system which let athletes write a personal message to any other Olympian, and the email would be translated into the recipient’s language. How handy! It’s not hard to imagine what this system ended up getting used for.
"I’d get e-mails from all these guys, and I’d have no idea who they were," said Dara Torres, an U.S. swimmer at the Games.
Eric, the condom ambassador
If you’re having a really, really good time at the Olympic Games, but you didn’t plan ahead, look for Eric.
Eric is this guy, who was seen walking around with a pouch packed with condoms at the 2016 Games in Rio. He was spotted doing his duty by Roger Sherman of SB Nation’, who tweeted a photo of the proud defender of public health that went viral. Sherman said he wanted to interview Eric about his mission, "but alas, he had to go deliver condoms. Not all heroes wear capes."