Originally published on cbc.ca/sports


Despite concerns over security, infrastructure and Zika, Olympic organizers stand prepared for Herculean performances this summer.

The expectations are nothing short of breathtaking: 10,500 athletes, 17 days and — wait for it — 450,000 condoms.

That breaks down to 42 per athlete, or nearly 2.5 condoms per day; record breaking stuff that gives new meaning to “faster, higher, stronger.” Organizers actually stamped this Olympic motto across condoms at the 2008 Games in Beijing.

And now in Rio more condoms than ever before have been ordered. In fact, three times as many as the 150,000 available at London’s Summer Games. Are the, ahem, abilities of today’s athletes truly that spectacular?

When condoms first started being distributed at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, only 8,500 were required. But since then a meteoric rise in the demand for latex has ensued. In Sydney, for example, the planned 70,000 allotment wasn’t enough, causing organizers to scramble for 20,000 more.

Condoms distributed per Olympic Games

  • Seoul 1988: 8,500
  • Albertville 1990: 30,000
  • Barcelona 1992: 90,000
  • Lillehammer 1994: 40,000
  • Atlanta 1996: 15,000
  • Nagano 1998: 36,000
  • Sydney 2000: 90,000
  • Salt Lake City 2002: 100,000
  • Athens 2004: 130,000
  • Turin 2006: unknown
  • Beijing 2008: 100,000
  • Vancouver 2010: 100,000
  • London 2012: 150,000
  • Sochi 2014: 100,000
  • Rio 2016: 450,000

Myth or fact?

Athletes themselves have, on occasion, confirmed the necessity of this supply. Such as when American snowboarder Jamie Anderson told Us Magazine following her gold-winning performance at Sochi, “Tinder in the Olympic Village is next level. In the mountain village it’s all athletes. It’s hilarious. There are some cuties on there.”

None of this is to say that Olympians are orchestrating hookups behind the scenes.

Far from it. At least according to Cynthia Graham, a Canadian psychologist and professor of sexual and reproductive health at the University of Southampton, as well as a researcher at the Kinsey Institute at Indiana University.

“We’re talking about people who are elite. All they are focussed on [at the Olympics] is getting medals. It’s a myth to think they will have time [for sex]. They will be focussed on what they are there for.”

Graham says “there is no research evidence to support the idea that athletes competing in the Olympics would be more likely to seek out casual sex.”

Anson Henry is a former Olympic sprinter who represented Canada at Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008, and now works at CBC Sports. He too agrees that athletes tend to stay focused, “at least until they compete.”

“When you’re an Olympian…it’s really easy once you drop the ‘O’ word.” – Anson Henry, former Olympian 

“At the closing ceremony in Athens they were giving away free ouzo, a Greek alcohol, in little bottles. So everybody was drunk — everybody. There was a lot going on there. Beijing was sort of the same. Usually that last night is when it gets the craziest.”

‘People are using them all’

All the environmental factors are there. Young, fit people from around the world with plenty of time, especially once their competitions are finished. Even more so, says Henry, if they’re star struck by fellow competitors or by the scale of the event. At some point, they just want to cut loose, especially after months of prolonged training.

More importantly, it’s easy.

“When you’re an Olympian,” says Henry, “and you go to Athens, Beijing, London or Rio, once you walk out, people see you, ‘you’re an Olympian, oh.’ Panties drop. […] It’s really easy once you drop the ‘O’ word.”

Having the condoms readily accessible is simply good public policy, says Graham. And, humour aside, that’s what this is likely about.

“I would guess a lot of this [the increase in the amount of condoms] is to do with Zika. I’m sure about that.

“Condoms, while not 100 per cent fool proof — mainly because people make errors using them — are currently the only effective method we have to prevent the spread of STIs (sexually transmitted infections).”

“They’re certainly not running out because people are using them all. I took a bunch of them home. Why not? They’re there. They’re free,” Henry adds.

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