You would think that world-class athletes would command world-class accommodations. But depending on who you ask, that’s not quite the case in the Olympic Village.
When it comes to where athletes are going to lay their heads at night in Tokyo, the focus was more on sustainability than luxury. Rather than Sleep Number beds and sheets of Egyptian cotton, Olympians will be getting shuteye on — wait for it — cardboard beds with polyethylene mattresses.
The Japanese bedding company Airweave is providing Olympic athletes with 18,000 “high resistance lightweight cardboard” beds in addition to the mattresses and 8,000 beds for Paralympians with a slightly differing design.
According to a news release from Inside the Games, the beds “will be recycled into paper products after the Games, with the mattress components recycled into new plastic products. This will be the first time in Olympic and Paralympic history that all beds and bedding are made almost entirely from renewable materials.”
At the time, Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Athletes Village, told the Associated Press that although the beds would be made of cardboard, they wouldn’t be flimsy and would be “stronger than wooden beds.” He also touted their comfortability. I’ll let Olympic athletes fact check the validity of that claim.
The release also stated that the beds can hold up to 441 pounds, but that didn’t stop the rumor mill from churning about the “real” cause for the switch to cardboard beds.
Team USA track and field athlete, Paul Chelimo, had a particularly interesting take on the mindset behind the beds, tweeting that they were “aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes” and “will be able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports.”
Beds to be installed in Tokyo Olympic Village will be made of cardboard, this is aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes
Beds will be able to withstand the weight of a single person to avoid situations beyond sports.
I see no problem for distance runners,even 4 of us can do😂 pic.twitter.com/J45wlxgtSo
— Paul Chelimo🇺🇸🥈🥉 (@Paulchelimo) July 17, 2021
I would just leave that there, but Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan also took to Twitter to debunk Chelimo’s claim of the beds being “anti-intimacy” by jumping on one to prove its sturdiness.
“Anti-sex” beds at the Olympics pic.twitter.com/2jnFm6mKcB
— Rhys Mcclenaghan (@McClenaghanRhys) July 18, 2021
So there you have it. The cold, hard truth is that rather than worrying about what athletes are doing during their downtime, the committee called in the cardboard for the sole purpose of ensuring a sustainable slumber.