The hardest training and most skilled athletes in the world are coming together for more than two weeks of intense competition featuring rigorous tests of determination and ability, but all anyone can talk about is sex. That’s because a few Olympians recently let the cat out of the bag about the full-on orgies that take place at the Olympic Village every two years.
Vague accounts of athletes leaving parties, statistical figures like “100,000 condoms,” and quotes like, “I’m running a friggin’ brothel in the Olympic Village! I’ve never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life,” have turned everyone’s focus from the tracks and fields and courts and pools to what might happen once those made-in-China uniforms hit the floor. Over the past couple of days, though, I was taken aback by the fact that people found this surprising.
Track and field is one of the few sports that has one coach that’s in charge of both men and women’s teams. Most schools employ a girl’s basketball coach and a boy’s basketball coach, but usually only one track coach. I ran cross-country and track at Downingtown East, and my closest friends were on the team with me. We took classes together, ate meals together, practiced together, competed together, and then traveled to meets on the weekends together. Add the girls’ team in the mix, and it’s easy to see what type of environment is created.
My first serious girlfriend was also a distance runner. Most of my track friends can say the same. If they weren’t dating runners, they were hooking up with them. After long meets or homecoming dances, all of the guys would crash at my parents’ house. The girls would crash at my buddy’s girlfriend’s place about a quarter mile away. Once everybody’s parents went to bed, either the guys or the girls would sneak out and trespass through a park to get to the other house. We weren’t exactly Seal Team 6 on an extraction missionâ€”and, to my knowledge, no one was sleeping with an entire Scandinavian relay teamâ€”but, we took it pretty seriously at the time. It’s the kind of stuff you’d see in a crappy high-school movie, except we were throwing up in front of each other because of mile repeats during August two-a-days, not booze smuggled out of someone’s family’s liquor cabinet.
A close friend of mine ran for two schools at the collegiate level and has worked as a coach at two additional colleges with major track programs. He says that this sort of thing isn’t entirely surprising because of the way the sport is organized. Obviously, track teams participate in meets. That means that on big weekends you’ve got 30 or 40 teams in the same town. The people are healthy and fit and are likely attracted to people who are also healthy and fit. He also says it gets a bit incestuous because of how many people know each other. All of these kids ran in high school and some of them transferred in college. Coaches bounce from program to program. So, when all of these teams roll into town for a meet, many of the faces are familiar.
Also, the training plays a big role in creating such an environment. Most collegiate runners are serious about their trade. School and training don’t give them a whole lot of time away from the team, so, when that season’s finally over and athletes have all of an hour and a half before they need to start thinking about the upcoming season, they tend to, ahem, let loose.
My buddy has stories of guys sharing girls, girls sharing guys, teammates going at it in front of each other, and all sorts of other tales of locker room grist you get when you spend all of your time with dozens of young men and women in top physical condition who typically prioritize academic and athletic success over a sound commitment to their personal lives. People are surprised that the Olympic Village is, basically, a party straight out of Eyes Wide Shut? They shouldn’t be. As with their sports, many of the athletes have been training for that for years.