The Olympics Are All Fun, No Games on TikTok

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Olympians are the world’s most impressive athletes. Watching them show off their superhuman strength, endurance and form, it’s easy to forget that many of them are not just mortals but teens and 20-somethings, effectively living in dorms, their emotions and hormones swiveling and swerving as they vie for the ultimate honors in sports.

When they’re not competing, the athletes at the Olympic Games in Tokyo have been quite candid on social media. Posts from the last two weeks, many of them on TikTok, show this year’s Olympians flirting, knitting, dancing, answering personal questions — and, of course, making sex jokes.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s been happening in their downtime, as seen on the smallest of screens.

Athletes across the board — the Israeli baseball team, an Irish gymnast, American rugby players — have posted videos of themselves and teammates attempting to corrupt the cardboard beds in the Olympic Village. Many of these “test the bed” videos were a humorous response to the rumor that the recycled beds were provided as a way to dissuade athletes from having sex. (That is not the case, according to the company that made them.)

In another jokey take on the Olympic Village’s reputation as a hookup zone, Noah Williams, a British diver, posted a TikTok video of himself and his teammate Tom Daley unboxing hundreds of free condoms. (The contraceptives have been provided by the organizers of the Olympics for more than 30 years to encourage sexual health.)

Other Olympians have been using social media to flirt with — or at least openly admire — their fellow competitors from afar.

Tyler Downs, an Olympic diver, posted a video on TikTok directed at Simone Biles, asking the decorated gymnast to “talk 2 me.” A Japanese fencer named Kaito Streets took the same approach with Naomi Osaka, the tennis player. Though the videos are flirty, it is unlikely that the young men have more in mind than attracting attention from their sports idols and their fans.

Gus Kenworthy, a commentator, posted a compilation of male athletes — some shirtless — while Charli XCX’s “Boys” played in the background. The lyrics are anything but subtle: “I was busy thinking ’bout boys/ Boys, boys/ I was busy dreaming ’bout boys.”

Ilona Maher, a member of the U.S. women’s rugby team, made no secret of her search for an “Olympic bae” in Tokyo, posting several videos about spotting “Olympic demigods” and making prolonged eye contact.

One user asked why the Olympians won’t just talk to each other in person. “It’s not that easy to go up to a pack of six, seven Romanian volleyball players and shoot my shot,” Ms. Maher said in one video. “I’m working on it, but I don’t know if that’s in the cards for me.”

In addition to the sillier posts, many athletes have pulled back the curtain on life in the Olympic Village, sharing footage of the nail salon, the souvenir shop, the self-driving vans, the massage center and the florist.

Kelsey Marie Robinson, a volleyball player for the United States, has been reviewing the food in the village’s cafeteria. In one video, she pans over a spread of salmon, steak, peaches, melons, fried calamari, seaweed rice balls, vegetable tempura and a chocolate mousse. The mousse really got her attention (“10/10,” Ms. Robinson wrote.)

Erica Ogwumike, a basketball player for the Nigerian team and a student in medical school, gave a short overview of the “polyclinic,” where athletes can receive acupuncture, dermatology treatments, physiotherapy and more.

Various athletes have answered frequently asked questions about their sport, themselves and being in the Olympics. (For volleyball players, “how tall are you?” is a common one.)

Cody Melphy, an American rugby player, has used his TikTok page to answer more niche questions, like whether athletes are allowed to keep the comforters that come with their cardboard beds (they are) and what happens if an athlete’s laundry is lost (Mr. Melphy washed his used clothes in a bathtub).

Mr. Daley, a diver and gold medalist who appeared in the condom unboxing video, has also been sharing his progress on knitting projects. On an Instagram page devoted to his knitted and crocheted creations, he said that the hobby has kept him “sane.”

Some competitors brought their fans into the experience even before reaching Tokyo. Liza Pletneva, a rhythmic gymnast from the United States, documented her team’s journey from home, which included a six-hour layover in Amsterdam, an 11-hour flight to Tokyo and five hours of processing upon arrival.

In comments on these videos, TikTok users are expressing their appreciation for how much inside scoop the Olympians have been posting. Noah Schnapp, an actor best known for his role on “Stranger Things,” published a video on TikTok saying he didn’t know Olympic athletes were so “funny and normal” and that seeing their routines on TikTok has changed the entire experience of spectating.

So the ratings are in. Season 1 of Olympics TikTok is a success.





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