The secret of the modern Olympics is that the athlete village, with its tightly packed collection of firm young bodies, 24-hour sports television and all-you-can eat international cuisine, has become the most exclusive VIP club in the world.
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There was undoubtedly a load of free contraceptives available at the central pharmacy in the Olympic village this year. The reason is simple, and goes back to the earliest days of the Olympics. Forget the myth of abstinence from these athletes, because it is just that, a complete myth.
At the Albertville winter Olympics, condom machines in the athletes’ village had to be refilled every two hours, and in Sydney the organizers original order of 70,000 condoms went so fast that they had to order 20,000 more. Even with the replenishment, the supply was exhausted three days before the end of the competition schedule.
In Salt Lake City in 2002 250,000 condoms were handed out, despite the objections of the city’s Mormon leadership. “There’s a lot of sex going on. You get a lot of people who are in shape, and, you know, testosterone’s up and everybody’s attracted to everybody,” says Breaux Greer, a shaggy-blond Californian who competed in the javelin at the Sydney Games.
Wild behavior is nothing new to the Games, where extraordinary performance has never been limited to the fields of play. 10,000 physically perfect human forms, in motion. That is why the original Olympians in ancient Greece competed nude. The secret of the modern Olympics is that the athlete village, with its tightly packed collection of firm young bodies, 24-hour sports television and all-you-can eat international cuisine, has become the most exclusive VIP club in the world.
Open only to competitors, coaches and trainers, it’s a wonderland of hormones, glycogen and dance mixes. The free dining hall is open all hours, with machines dispensing free soft drinks. Pool halls, cinemas, bowling alleys and discos stay open – and jumping – throughout the night.
The modern games may be sexually wild, but the ancient games offered the ultimate pagan entertainment package. Some of the rules made today’s competitors seem really soft. For instance, competitors had to swear an oath on a slice of boar’s meat that they had not used magic to boost their performances.
Runners making false starts were thrashed by the official whip bearer, and wrestlers could tear out their opponent’s intestines, though eye-gouging was banned. Prostitutes made a year’s wages in five days at the Greek games, which married women were forbidden to attend , because all athletes performed naked.
The start of the Games was a Hollywood dream, with 40 chariots hurtling round the tight turns of a deadly course offering non-stop thrills and spills. Sophocles, a writer of the time, described one of many Olympic accidents - As the crowd saw the driver somersault, there rose a wail of pity for the youth as he was bounced into the ground, then flung head over heels into the sky. When his companions caught the runaway team and freed the blood-stained corpse from his rig, he was disfigured and marred past the recognition of his best friend.
Boxing and wrestling satisfied even the most blood-thirsty spectators in Olympia, permanent home for 293 successive Olympics until 392 AD. Boxers had no ring, there were no rounds and the match kept going until one boxer was knocked senseless. Body blows were banned. Punches were always aimed at the head. Pankration was a deadly mix of wrestling and kick-boxing. Maximum pain was the goal, with legs twisted from sockets, shoulders dislocated and ribs broken. But being a spectator at these games was no picnic. 40,000 spectators crammed into the Olympic stadium had very little water and no sanitation. In the searing sun, many died from dehydration and fever.
Athletes paraded in all their naked glory for a society that mirrored the 21st-century obsession with youth and the body beautiful. Competing nude was a time-honoured tradition of ancient Greek athletes as much a part of Hellenic culture as drinking wine, discussing Homer or worshipping Apollo.Olympic winners were garlanded with olive wreaths and showered with gifts that ranged from lifetime seats at the local amphitheatre to generous pensions.
The ancient heroes really were larger than life. In the sixth century BC, teenage wrestler Milo of Croton developed a very unusual weight-training programme in southern Italy. He lifted a young bull calf every day until the mighty beast was full-grown. It paid off, for this original Italian stallion ended up the greatest Olympic wrestler of all time, winning the boys event and then five successive Olympics.
Sex was then, as it is now at the Olympics, both rampant and highly charged. The ultimate release for those hard-bodied competitors who have to let off steam. There are those who truly believe that sex is as important in training to win a gold medal as any other workout, and they go after it with a real vengeance. Athletes really get off on getting it on. Sex, after all, is in some ways what the Olympic games are all about.