Distribution of “Condoms” to Athletes at the Olympics? 450,000 Not Enough? What’s the Mystery Behind?


Whenever the Olympics are mentioned, people immediately think of the figures striving on the field, the blood shed under fair competition, and the Olympic spirit of mutual understanding and respect. It seems hard to associate all these with condoms. However, the distribution of condoms at the Olympics began as far back as the 1988 Seoul Olympics in Korea. At that time, Korea prepared nearly 9,000 condoms for the athletes of the Olympics, but they were used up within a few days. So, Korea managed to prepare 20,000 more condoms, yet still, they ran out. Although Korea’s shocking move at that time stirred a hot debate around the world, this practice was eventually retained, and condoms gradually became an unspoken necessity for countries hosting the Olympics.

Furthermore, the condoms prepared for Olympic athletes even have the Olympic rings and some scenic cultural patterns of various countries on them. Why is that? Every time the Olympics are held, there is a shortage of condoms, and during the 2016 Rio Olympics, the organizers provided 450,000 condoms (including 100,000 female condoms) to the athletes. In the Olympic Village, condoms are consumed at an astonishing rate daily, and this has become an open secret known to all. It raises a question: wouldn’t abstinence during the competition period affect the performance? Why provide condoms to Olympic athletes?

Colorado State University in the USA conducted a study where they tested 10 athletes who had sexual activities before the competition on various aspects like body functions, flexibility, reaction time, endurance, etc. The results showed that as long as the sexual activities were not excessive, they would not affect the athletes’ physical fitness. Moreover, athletes need a lot of exercise and movement daily, which would increase the hormones in their bodies, and therefore their need for sexual activities would be greater. Appropriate sexual activities can help them relax physically and emotionally. Hence, the importance of condoms becomes evident. They not only protect female athletes from getting pregnant and affecting their performance, but more importantly, they can effectively prevent the spread of AIDS. A year after the 1980 Moscow Olympics, many “Olympic babies” appeared in the Moscow Olympic Village, the reason for which is obvious.

The two main transmission routes of AIDS are through blood and sexual activities. Athletes at the Olympics come from all over the world, especially from some less developed countries where there’s little knowledge about AIDS, and condoms are a rare luxury. It’s said that many athletes collect these condoms to sell in their home countries, but that’s another story. Whenever the Olympics are held, the organizers usually build an Olympic Village for the athletes. These athletes are mostly young, vigorous, and physically fit individuals, especially foreigners from Western countries with open attitudes towards sexual activities, even in front of the public media. A notable swimmer, Lochte, when asked by a reporter whether sexual activities occur among athletes, openly stated that 70% of them would have sexual activities, which is normal. Hence, distributing condoms to athletes during the Olympics helps to instill safe behavior awareness in them, promoting this health and safety knowledge among different countries. After all, these athletes are meticulously selected from various countries, and a lot has been invested in them by their motherland. If they contract AIDS, it would undoubtedly deal a devastating blow to their athletic careers. Therefore, the distribution of condoms is a necessary trend to protect the safety and health of athletes to the greatest extent.

The Demand Outstrips Supply of Condoms

Who would have thought that the distribution of condoms during the 1988 Seoul Olympics, which once caused a public outcry, has now become the event with the least number of condoms distributed in history? In fact, this practice during the Seoul Olympics was a tentative attempt. Faced with athletes from many foreign countries gathering together, distributing condoms, although seemingly indecent, was considered from a safe intercourse perspective to prevent the spread of AIDS. Starting from this Olympics, in every subsequent Olympics, organizers would provide over 100,000 free condoms to the Olympic Village, but there would still be a shortage. To ensure that athletes have enough condoms, during the 2012 London Olympics, organizers increased the number of condoms to 150,000, averaging 14 per person. However, just five days into the event, condoms in the Olympic Village were in urgent demand again, prompting London organizers to order a new batch of condoms. The mayor of London even joked, “The purpose of hosting the Olympics is to better motivate the next generation, not to work harder to create the next generation.” Learning from the experiences of previous Olympics, the Rio Olympics held four years later proceeded as scheduled, and they did something quite astonishing. That was breaking the historical record of the number of condoms provided to athletes by Olympic organizers. This time, the Rio Olympics organizers were well-prepared, providing a whopping 450,000 condoms for athletes, averaging 42 per person, and female condoms appeared for the first time. With the “material support” from the organizers, athletes were happy to see this.

They believe that appropriate sexual activities help them relieve stress. Not only that, they also use some dating apps to find intimate partners who resonate with their souls. Grindr, a well-known foreign dating website, was one of them, and during the 2012 Olympics, it experienced server crashes several times due to the overwhelming number of logins. It’s bewildering; where do athletes get such vigorous energy from amidst high-intensity sports? This is because individuals engaged in long-term high-intensity sports will secrete hormones during their daily exercises, and on the competition field, athletes will secrete endorphins and adrenaline, thus significantly enhancing their sexual desires. It’s worth mentioning that during the severe situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan prepared 150,000 condoms for the Tokyo Olympics, but there was still a shortage, which left people puzzled. “During the special period of the Tokyo Olympics, athletes are prohibited from shaking hands, table tennis players are not allowed to blow on the ball or touch the table, so why do organizers still distribute so many condoms?” Although this behavior sparked controversy, it is an unspoken understanding in every Olympic event.

The “Packaging Culture” of Condoms

As mentioned earlier, many athletes from less developed countries choose to take all the condoms distributed by the organizers back to their countries for resale. This is not only because condoms are a “rare item” in their countries, but also due to the text and designs on the packaging of the condoms, which is indeed a clever idea by the designers. The reason for the Olympic organizers to provide condoms to the athletes is for their physical safety, to prevent the spread of AIDS. Given the long incubation period and highly infectious nature of AIDS, with this intent in mind, the act of distributing condoms has been maintained.

To further promote this notion, a remarkable “revolution” has been initiated on the packaging of the condoms. It’s not hard to notice that on the condoms distributed to the athletes, some have information about AIDS prevention, some promote the Olympic spirit, and others feature iconic architectural designs representing different countries and cultures. Surprisingly, these small packets of condoms have such thoughtful packaging, no wonder many Olympic athletes take them back to their countries as gifts for their friends and family. Perhaps in our eyes, this act might feel a bit embarrassing, but the knowledge regarding this aspect is something we need to learn more about, after all, it directly relates to our safety and health. For many people in various countries, their thoughts on this aspect are very open, hence, such publicity is extremely necessary to protect their safety during sexual interactions.


Previously, in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, there were explicit requirements for abstinence, yet voices opposing abstinence were everywhere. The opposition arises from the belief that this monotonous, high-intensity training method could exacerbate the athletes’ anxiety, which could very likely affect their performance during competitions. Appropriate sexual activity is still very necessary. Ultimately, what directly relates to the athletes’ performance is not abstinence, but whether or not they indulge in desires. Moderate sexual activity and safe and healthy protective measures are the most responsible manifestations of athletes towards their own bodies.