We’ve all heard about the insane amount of drinking that Olympic spectators are capable of (See Vancouver, 2010). But what about the athletes?
Call me naïve, but I always imagined the Olympic Village as a dry campus, where athletes drank milk with their dinners and all the lights blinked off in unison at 8:30 pm. All those rock-hard bodies and athletic feats don’t come cheap: sacrifices have to be made.
Maybe I should have been more creative in my imaginings. A new book, “The Secret Olympics,” written by Anonymous (supposedly a former British competitor), seeks to blow the lid off the image of the squeaky clean uber athletes.
First to be debunked was my vision of the dry campus: An article in the New York Post describes the Olympic Villages as “ vast, pre-fab communities, divided into smaller subdivisions by nation,” where everything is free, including the beer.
Apparently, the United States has a 24-hour McDonald’s and beer halls sponsored by Budweiser and Heineken.
In a series of interviews for the New York Post, athletes said that “while officials don’t condone” drinking and partying, “they don’t condemn it, either—the only thing that matters…is that the image of the Olympics remain unsullied.”
While alcohol and drugs are banned in the Olympic Villages (except beer, apparently?), the athletes, like college kids all over the world, know how to smuggle hard liquor in when they want it: in water bottles, for example.
Huh? But who has the time, energy and guts to drink during competition?
Well, here’s where I erred in my thinking.
Olympic athletes may seem superhuman, but they’re not so insane that they can actually compete hung over. So when do they party? DUH. AFTER the competition is over. Then they go nuts.
An athlete quoted in the Post explains that she’s “in two different gears” during the Olympics: Either she’s “so focused that I see nothing else, or I’m partying my butt off.”
Of course. It makes total sense. In our culture, we use alcohol to blow off steam, and who is more penned in (literally) than the Olympic athletes. All year, they have to be virtuous and good and clean and disciplined to the extreme. The Olympics is the culmination of all they’ve worked for—all that stress built up in one pressure-cooker of an Olympic Village until—BOOM—it’s over. Finally, they can let loose.
And let loose they do. From the closing ceremony till the airplane rides home, it’s basically, one long, continuous party.
In the New York Post article, one Olympian describes the closing ceremony like this: “They basically throw us all in a stadium and say, ‘Just go for it, party hard, get drunk and do some groping…Our hair is on fire, we’re leaving the next morning, and we’re going to enjoy our last 24 hours.”
And the flight home? Again in the Post, an athlete described a flight from Sydney to Los Angeles in 2000, which had almost 100 Olympians among the passengers: “Everybody partnered up fairly rapidly, and when they’d bring a drink cart through, we’d send it back dry.”
I don’t know where I got my stereotype of the teetotaling athlete from. Truthfully, it goes against the grain of everything that’s known about sports & drinking: namely, that they often go together. It’s that old work hard, play hard mentality that flies in the face of all our talk about moderation being what’s “good for you.”
Olympic athletes are anything but moderate. It makes sense that their partying is as superhuman as their training.
This year, the athletes are being encouraged to tweet their hearts out so everyone in the real world can get to know them. Given all the supposed debauchery in the Olympic village, maybe we’ll all get a glimpse of this hidden Olympics. This could get, um, interesting.