- By: By Ben Wyatt CNN
OLYMPIC PARK, London – The face of the Olympics is well known the world over: athletes winning, losing, straining every sinew of their bodies in the pursuit of podium glory. But behind the scenes there is another story of the athletes’ lives and the use of their bodies, one that centers on their time staying at the Olympic Village.
“Anyone who wants to be naive and say they don’t know what’s going on in the Village are lying to themselves,” one former gold medalist and veteran of two Olympics told CNN of his previous experiences at the Games. “They know, the officials know, even the media. It’s not a secret, everyone knows!
“(Sex) is all part of the Olympic spirit. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) wouldn’t say that, but it is, you can’t shy away from it. Why do you think they give away so many condoms?”
The Athletes’ Village at the Olympic Games is a unique environment: Nearly 3,000 tightly-packed apartments, containing over 10,000 of the world’s finest athletes who have traveled from more than 200 countries around the world to stay for a two-week sporting jamboree.
(PHOTO GALLERY: See images from day 12 of the London Olympic Games )
A potent mix of fit, body beautiful, young people — many of whom have abstained from sexual intercourse as part of a disciplined training regime — being in the same place, at the same time; cocooned from the outside world by tight security and often reveling in the glory of success and attention of devoted crowds and the world’s press.
It is maybe only human nature that people, when placed together, procreate to some extent, but that libidinous cocktail means London 2012 officials were right if the experiences of Sydney and Atlanta were anything to make 150,000 condoms — a record for the modern Games — available to the Village’s frisky inhabitants, according to CNN’s source
“The athletes don’t know what to expect the first time they go to the Olympics, but it just happens,” added the former gold medalist, who is now approaching his late 30s, looking back at his Olympic experiences. “As soon as you finish competing there’s no sleeping until the next day!
“Many of the volunteers (in the Village) would say ‘Oh, what is your room like?’ and I knew they were not really wanting to see the room. It’s just fun, they are excited to be with the athletes.
“You talk, you go to your room. Let me say this … there were lots of volunteers and they were happy to help you with whatever your needs were.
“My roommate and I would put something on the door so we would know if the other was ‘busy’. I feel bad to say it but my coach actually guarded the door the night before me and my roommate were racing (because of our reputations)! But it didn’t affect me like that. When I raced after sex I felt light on my feet.
“We were young and most of the people I hung out with were single. Hope Solo told it basically like it is,” said the runner, referring to the U.S. female soccer team goalkeeper.
Solo is one of the few current athletes to have been candid about her experience of the Village environment.
“There’s a lot of sex going on,” said the 30-year-old keeper In an interview with ESPN Magazine, prior to the London Games.
“With a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you want to build memories, whether it’s sexual, partying or on the field. I’ve seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.”
The anonymous runner who spoke to CNN, said that he found himself in the exact situation Solo had described, despite the surveillance of airborne security at the Village employed after a bomb exploded at the Atlanta Games in 1996.
“It was around one in the morning and security wouldn’t let us out of the Village, so me and my roommate went to the cafeteria for something to eat. The girls in there said ‘Oh, we finish in an hour, what are you guys doing?’ So we said ‘We’re heading back to our room’. They asked if they could walk with us, and all I will say is we didn’t make it back to the room – and this with the helicopters flying over with their searchlights! It was OK, we were under trees.”
Shenanigans that would conceivably come as no surprise to swimmer Ryan Lochte and winner of five medals in the London pool.
“Seventy to 75 percent of Olympians hook up behind the scenes,” the 27-year-old swimmer told ESPN in July. “Hey, sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.”
Solo believes the friendly nature of the Games makes it easy to meet people.
“Unlike at a bar, it’s not awkward to strike up a conversation because you have something in common,” Solo told ESPN. “It starts with, ‘What sport do you play?’ All of a sudden, you’re fist-bumping.”
“Sydney was the best, they were so welcoming, friendly and passionate,” said CNN’s anonymous athlete, referring to the 2000 Games.
“In Sydney it was like going back to your school reunion and seeing people you haven’t seen for a few years. Athletes from the Bahamas, Jamaica, friends
that you keep with on the circuit all excited about being there. The Olympic spirit somehow touches everyone.
“In the Village you have an official masseuse and I was having problems with my leg after my race. So I went to the medical center which ultimately led to me having a rub down and I remember the very pretty lady who was going to treat me. She said: ‘Please take off your clothes’ and then she said ‘Oh my God, look at your body, I’ve never seen a body like this!’ So she helped with the rub down and afterwards I knew something was going to happen, and it did.”
However, it is not just the sexually-charged nature of the Athletes’ Village that makes it such unique accommodation.
According to former 100m men’s champion Linford Christie, the Village offers a unique opportunity to spend time, and often to make friends, with other athletes and even rivals.
“I loved staying in the Village, when I was Team GB captain I encouraged people to stay there because how on earth will the young athletes develop if all the experienced stars stay away? It’s a way to take your mind of the pressure of your event,” said Christie, who is working with CNN during the Olympics.
“In 1992 there was the basketball ‘Dream Team’ and you see Michael Jordan walking around in the cafeteria – it was like ‘woooh!’ You look up to him, firstly, because he was seven foot but also because he was a big star. I collected autographs in there, for other people.
“And in track and field the people that you compete against are often your good friends. I met Frankie Fredericks that way. I’ve got a good friend who was a German handball player and have friends from swimming as well as track and field. I met people through sport that I would never have met otherwise.”
The Village also creates an environment in which national teams can bond.
“I think it’s very positive, because it’s a shared experience and it’s a leveler,” said Christie.
“Sometimes the food was bad, but if I performed as team captain and I’d eaten the same food then that was a message for the team: it was no excuse. It’s fun, you can hang out with superstars and you get a chance to talk to people instead of being cocooned in a hotel on your own somewhere.”
Kriss Akabusi, a veteran of the Los Angeles and Barcelona Games, also felt staying at the Village was a vital part of the Olympic experience.
“You know you’ve arrived when you get to the Village. The best of the best are there and everything is available for your needs,” she said.
“I’m quite an insular person, self centered even, and the Athletes’ Village was good for my preparation because everything there is about ‘you’. You can decide whether or not you want to speak to the press or not. If you have a niggle then there’s a doctor, physio, all there ready to go,” the 400m runner and hurdler told CNN.
“LA had the best facilities. We could email and get information straight away as it was the beginning of internet facilities. They had 24/7 movies, great food and it was my first time in America, Hollywood! It was phenomenal Games.
“For 17 days we were the center of the universe. And if people were getting jiggy that’s fine but that wasn’t my experience or a lot of other athletes.”
Additional news gathering and reporting from Tancredi Palmeri