Sex is back at the Olympic Village: Paris will hand out 300,000 condoms

Olympics - Paris Olympics 2024 - Inauguration of the Adidas Arena - Paris, France - February 11, 2024 General view of the basketball court in the Adidas Arena during the Inauguration REUTERS/Stephanie Lecocq (REUTERS / Reuters)

Four new sports, including skateboarding and surfing, will be featured at this summer’s Paris Olympic Games. But one age-old form of physical activity is also set to make a comeback: sex, or as the French call it, “sport in the room.”

Organizers in the City of Love are not only turning the page on the covid-era intimacy ban imposed on athletes at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 - they plan to make 300,000 condoms available to residents of the Olympic Village.

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With that quantity, every resident “will have what they are expecting and what they need,” said Laurent Michaud, director of the Olympic and Paralympic Village, in an interview with Sky News.

Michaud said organizers’ goal is for the more than 14,000 athletes, staff and members of the press in the Village during the Games to “feel very enthusiastic and comfortable,” he said. The Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place between July 26 and Sept. 8.

There will be no alcohol - as is common for Olympic Villages - but “it’s going to be a great place so they can actually share their moment,” he said.

The news will likely be welcomed by many athletes, who were asked by the International Olympic Committee to “avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact” during the last Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games because of the pandemic.

Distributing condoms at the Games isn’t a new tradition. According to Slate, it goes back to the Seoul Olympics in 1988, when about 8,500 condoms were handed out to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS. But the numbers have shot up over time: At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, organizers had to order 20,000 more condoms after they realized the initial 70,000 they had ordered wouldn’t be enough, according to Inside the Games, a specialized sports publication.

The Rio Olympics in 2016 topped the cake, with 450,000 male and female condoms distributed - prompting the New York Post to run an article with the headline, “Ludicrous amount of condoms shipped to Brazil for Olympics.”

Even Tokyo, with its ban on close contact, wasn’t exactly condom-free. Organizers planned to give out 150,000 condoms, but told Reuters they were “not for use at the athlete’s village, but to have athletes take them back to their home countries to raise awareness.”

It’s impossible to know exactly how much sex goes on among athletes at the Olympics, but anecdotes from athletes suggest there’s no shortage. “There’s a lot of sex going on,” American soccer goalkeeper and two-time Olympic gold medalist Hope Solo told ESPN in 2012, and American swimmer and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte said that about “70 percent to 75 percent of Olympians” were having sex.

Paris also recently announced it is taking the opportunity presented by the Games to redesign the packet of the condoms it gives away throughout the year. City Hall is hosting a contest to find the packet’s next design, centered around the theme of sexual consent, and is encouraging a nod to the “festive framework” of the Games.

Not everyone at the Olympics is getting busy - and as The Washington Post previously reported, some athletes have appeared skeptical that the volume of condoms ordered for past Olympic Games is actually needed.

The Rio Olympics offer of 450,000 condoms “is an absolutely huge allocation of condoms,” retired English Olympic rowing medalist Zac Purchase told the Guardian in 2016. Purchase speculated that the majority of the condoms wouldn’t be needed. “[I]t is all so far from the truth of what it’s like to be in there. It’s not some sexualized cauldron of activity,” Purchase said. “We’re talking about athletes who are focused on producing the best performance of their lives.”

Meanwhile, U.S. snowboarder and Olympic medalist Jamie Anderson told Us Weekly during the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, that many in the Olympic Village used the dating app Tinder to meet people. But she said it got “way too distracting” and she deleted her account “to focus on the Olympics.”

While condoms might be offered to athletes, one traditional item of French culture - and potential source of distraction - won’t be. “No champagne in the Village of course,” Michaud told Sky. “But they can have all the champagne they want … in Paris.”

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