Inside the Olympic Village
Credit: Illustration by John Mattos
For a great many Olympians, the weeks spent in the Village are the most fraught, tense, overanalyzed weeks of their lives. "The pressure is so intense," says Hall, "that you can walk through the Village and, without having any exchange of words, identify the athletes who have yet to compete versus the athletes who are done competing. It's in their facial expressions, their mannerisms." In all likelihood, those who are done competing have not medaled. "That can lead to some recklessness," says Casey Barrett, who swam for Canada in Atlanta in 1996 and came in 11th. "It's, like, 'Shit, now what?' There's this big letdown. It didn't matter what kind of a long shot you were – you came to the Olympics with dreams of winning it all, so when you don't, and you react to the depression and the release, you can see how some dirty things happen."

Over the years, the media has reported exhaustively on the distribution of contraceptives in the Village. According to reports, the condom machines in the Albertville, France, Village (Winter 1992) had to be refilled every two hours. At the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, 100,000 condoms were given away (though hot tubs were removed in response to "excessive sexual activity"). In Athens, the condom count increased to 130,000. The first 70,000 went so fast in Sydney that organizers had to order 20,000 more. The Cuban delegation was reportedly the first to burn through their allotment. Graham Richardson, mayor of Sydney's Village, reported that demand was furious and that he witnessed female Olympians "rummaging around in a condom bowl for the right color and size."

"They're creating an environment where they want to make sure it's as safe as possible to be promiscuous," says Morgenstein. "You can't keep all these athletes who have all this pent-up energy in one place for so long and expect nobody's going to hook up; it happens all the time. I've had clients break up with boyfriends or girlfriends on the way to the Olympics because they know going to the Games that there's no way they're going to be able to stay committed. I've had athletes who have shared that their significant other was there to cheer them on, and unfortunately, at some point during their time in the Village, they were with other people. The Olympic Village is sort of this Fort Knox of sleep, sex, and eating."

The bars around the Village swell to capacity with bingeing jocks. In the clubs, medals command attention, though not always admiration. Members of silver-winning relay teams show up with medals around their necks, subtle as searchlights. "The guys who are really high profile, collecting a bunch of gold on their own," says Barrett, "don't need to do that. Girls already know who they are." Girls certainly knew Italian slalom king Alberto Tomba, who won five medals in four Olympics and was known to travel with an entourage. U.S. ski-team coach Johno McBride recalls Team Tomba setting up huge parties. "They'd have the whole back of this nightclub sort of roped off," he says. "These people would be partying like rock stars, and though there was this perception of Tomba as a playboy, sort of ripping around parties every night, he would have a sip of water and slip right out the back door."

Other Olympians get so drunk they need to be dragged through the Village gates. In her new book, In the Water They Can't See You Cry, Amanda Beard recalls going to a Sydney nightclub, where "the fittest, most focused folks in the world were knee deep in hedonism," she writes. "With low body fat and long periods of abstinence, they were drinking as if someone was about to take the alcohol away. That meant people getting seriously wasted, dancing on tables, and hooking up with each other in plain sight."

Matthew Syed, a snaggle-toothed British ping-ponger, who claims to have been laid twice during the Barcelona Games, writes that every interaction is sexually charged: "The women, too, seemed in thrall to their hormones," he said in an article in The Times of London, "throwing around daring glances and dynamite smiles like confetti. No meal or coffee break was complete without a breathless conversation with a lithe long jumper from Cuba or an Amazonian badminton player from Sweden, the mutual longing so evident it was almost comical."

One veteran Olympian boasts of the alleged prowess of the athletic set: "Sex is unquestionably a physical activity, so it stands to reason that Olympians, being the best at physical activity, would be the best at sex." According to Jasha Faye, a weightlifter who just missed making the Olympic team in 1996, the correlation between athleticism and sexual appetite is direct. "I lived at an Olympic Training Center for four years. It's essentially the Olympic Village on a day-to-day basis. You get a lot of sexual deviancy. We lived in coed dorms. You couldn't turn around without somebody showing you their boner. There was pornography everywhere. There was a time when the U.S. women's rowing team was out there – they're these gorgeous, 6-foot-tall, 200-pound Amazonian beasts. They train harder than anybody I've ever known. Their testosterone levels are probably 10 to 20 times higher than the average woman's. They're aggressive; they're grabbing your nuts. They get a little drunk, and they're doing stuff like an aggressive dude would do. Whistle at one of these chicks – you might get laid. You're walking down the hall in a towel – after these girls have been training their asses off – you've got a six-pack, deltoids like cannonballs, and they see you – you're getting laid. It's that simple."

We could find only one country whose athletes had to sign a pre-Games agreement to remain celibate. "Apparently the Canadian team was so poorly behaved in Barcelona in 1992," says swimmer Casey Barrett, "that we had to sign an agreement, under oath, for Atlanta in 1996, that we wouldn't engage in any sexual relations the entire time we were part of Team Canada. Apparently, it's a product of other people screwing up four years earlier. It definitely made people from other countries pay more attention to us: 'Oh, what about that contract?'" Allegedly, after performing poorly, Team Canada broke its pact with a big Canadian orgy. "That was the rumor," recalls Amy Van Dyken. "Everybody was, like, 'Do not go near there. Do not go near the Canadian dorm.'"

Otherwise, there's some sort of omertà in play (owing largely to the fact that many former Olympians don't want their kids reading about who they hooked up with in Los Angeles in 1984, and many current Olympians don't want to botch huge sponsorship deals by acting like sex tourists). But secrets do leak: Australia's lady swimmers stripped on their Barcelona balcony. Prostitutes – allegedly signed in by an employee of an American TV network – were expelled from the Sydney Village. Unidentified female athletes at the Seoul Games put posters in their windows inviting male athletes up for "coffee." That year, so many used condoms piled up on the roof terrace of the British team's residential block that the British Olympic Association reportedly had to explicitly ban outdoor sex.

Sex isn't the only preoccupation in the Olympic Village. Fast and strong and feeling limitless, Olympians tend to take a shot at petty theft as if it were a medal event – particularly if they're stealing flags. Speedskater Peter Mueller returned to his room in Lake Placid, in 1980, after a botched flag-napping attempt. His roommate, gold-medal-winning speedskater Eric Heiden, recalls Peter being "pretty blasted, swearing up and down, saying he just got caught stealing a flag by Barney Fife of the Lake Placid PD." American swimmers Troy Dalbey and Doug Gjertsen were busted after lifting a marble lion's head from a Seoul hotel in 1988.

And Olympians occasionally light things on fire. When a rower (from Canada, of course) set his hat on fire at the Sydney Games, he drew the attention of the Village fire department; some time later, Team Canada was spotted riding around the Village on a fire truck, sirens wailing, having mounted a moose sculpture on the roof.