Opinion: Olympic mixed messages with safe sex from a distance

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So can someone please explain the 150,000 condoms?

Rightly or wrongly, the Tokyo Olympic Games are nearly upon us. I mention ‘rightly’ merely for a token attempt at balance. The fact this Olympiad is about to be staged is wholly wrong on a host of levels, as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s linger on just one, though. The fact is that Japan is suffering a fourth wave of coronavirus, with confirmed cases coming at more than 3000 a day.

And Olympic Committees, such as our own, want to happily expose athletes to that? It’s grotesque and hardly good for the welfare of sports men and women, which we’re forever told is paramount.

But never mind. Shouting, cheering and singing at the Games have all been banned. That’ll keep those germs at bay.

Frequenting bars and gyms is out for athletes and officials, who’ll number 11,000 by the time the event kicks off in July. Everyone will be wearing masks morning, noon and night and it’s “full steam ahead” for a safe and successful campaign, New Zealand Olympic and Commonwealth Games secretary general Kereyn Smith said this week.

These are unprecedented times, so the excitement of the New Zealand team’s gear having been sent to Tokyo is tempered by the knowledge that everyone could still end up very sick.

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“It’s a really great time to reflect and to think about where we’ve come from and also to feel slightly daunted by the challenges ahead,” said Smith.

So what’s with all the condoms?

Sure, 150,000 is rather modest, compared to the 450,000 organisers rustled up for the Rio Games in 2016, but who’s going to need all these prophylactics?

This is the thing with all these well-intentioned Olympic types, with their laudable ideals and rules and regulations. Either athletes and coaches and officials are going to be socially-distanced at all times in Tokyo or they’re not.

It can’t be when it’s convenient or when there’s a camera within cooee or when you haven’t competed in your event yet. You’re either fraternising with different folk or you’re not.

‘You can’t be half-pregnant’ was a favourite phrase of my late father-in-law. Only, when the Olympic Committees of the world are involved, it appears as if you can.

You can be socially-distanced and still have sex, just as long as – what? – you’ve got your face mask on? What about your national team’s tracksuit? Would that help too?

I’m not an Olympic enthusiast and have said so on various occasions, partly because of this kind of nonsense.

“The Games will remind all of us of the importance of solidarity and co-operation,” Tokyo Organising Committee executive director Maki Koboyashi said this week.

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“Because of the medical workers, the researchers, the essential workers and the citizens who have been bearing these situations, we can make things possible. This is going to be the platform for hope.”

So what’s with all the condoms, then? What “hope” does any athlete have of remaining coronavirus-free, if organisers are literally going to hand out contraceptives?

And there we were thinking it was all about the medals and the honour of representing your nation.

I sincerely hope no athlete, official, coach or accredited media member falls ill in Japan. I hope the event can run without incident and that television viewers are treated to some fine performances.

But it’s hard to have great confidence when the messages are this mixed.

There’s absolutely no justification for staging these Olympics, given the health crisis that exists in Japan. Organisers will have hoped that delaying the event by a year would have mitigated the prevalence and virulence of these strains of Covid-19, but that hasn’t happened.

The International Olympic Committee are determined to plough ahead, with the help of various protocols that they believe will keep everyone safe. Great.

It’s just hard to see how 150,000 condoms are compatible with any of that.

Hamish Bidwell,


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