Why Are Olympians Sleeping On Cardboard Beds?

Photo: BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images.
If the growing number of COVID cases in Japan wasn't enough to worry about in the days leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, athletes reporting live from the Olympic Village are sharing a new concern: cardboard beds.
On Friday, distance runner Paul Chelimo tweeted out two photos of the beds Olympians will be sleeping on while in Tokyo; the beds, all twin-sized and covered in official Tokyo 2020 bedding, are apparently made of cardboard manufactured by the Japanese company Airweave.
While the benefits of the cardboard beds are being touted by Airweave — they're not only made of renewable materials, but are also stronger than wood and steel — some Olympians theorize that there were alternate motives for making athletes sleep on cardboard. Chelimo, among others, dubbed these cots "anti-sex beds."
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But after the anti-sex conspiracy started to spread, gymnast Rhys McClenaghan debunked it by posting a video of himself jumping multiple times on his cardboard bed, proving that they can withstand the weight of multiple people. "In today's episode of fake news at the Olympic Games, the beds are meant to be anti-sex," McClenaghan says to the camera before climbing atop his bed. "They're made out of cardboard, yes, but apparently, they’re meant to break at any sudden movements." He then jumps multiple times before saying once again that news of the beds being anti-sex is false.
Still, the widespread knowledge that the Olympics was urging athletes to refrain from any sexual activity fuelled theories that this was just the latest ploy to keep Olympians from having sex. So, where is the truth, and where is the lie?
As it turns out, all 18,000 of the beds (plus another 8,000 for the Paralympics) were ordered before the pandemic began in March 2020, according to The New York Times — and apparently were not meant to deter sexual activity. In fact, these beds are made to withstand a maximum weight of 440 pounds and chosen with the environment in mind. 
Despite the beds not being for anti-sex purposes, the IOC is still discouraging Olympians from hooking up. While athletes were given a total of 150,000 condoms this year — a standard at the Games since at least 1988 — they were instructed to instead bring them home and use them there. The official Olympics Playbook also suggests a limit on physical contact, including no intimate relationships or large gatherings like parties outside of participating in the competition, and suggests maintaining a distance of 6.5 feet.
The approach to safety during the Tokyo Olympics has been nothing short of confusing. With rising COVID cases among athletes and no vaccine requirement to participate, the emphasis on abstinence feels wholly misguided. Let them have sex on their cardboard beds, I say.

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