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‘Anti-Sex’ Beds in the Olympic Village? A Social Media Theory is Soon Debunked

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Competitors arriving at the Tokyo Olympics have discovered something unusual about the beds in the athletes’ village: They’re made of cardboard.

Some have shared images on social media of the modular bed frames, which are made by the Japanese company Airweave and are recyclable. Organizers say it is the first time that the beds at the Games will be made almost entirely out of renewable materials.

But in the time of the coronavirus, when Olympic organizers worried about transmission are trying to discourage close contact as much as possible, the unusual bed frames have led some to suggest there’s another motive behind them.

Paul Chelimo, an American distance runner, speculated on Twitter that the beds were unable to support more than one person and were “aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.” Soon the beds were being labeled on social media as “anti-sex.”

Rhys McClenaghan, a gymnast from Ireland, called the claim “fake news.” A video he posted on Twitter showed him jumping on his bed to demonstrate that it would hold up against vigorous activity. The official Olympics Twitter account reposted Mr. McClenaghan’s video, adding: “Thanks for debunking the myth.”

The plan for the 18,000 beds and mattresses — 8,000 will also be used for the Paralympics starting next month — was announced before the pandemic started and social distancing restrictions were first put in place, and they’re sturdier than they look.

“Cardboard beds are actually stronger than the one made of wood or steel,” Airweave said in a statement.

The modular mattresses are customizable to suit athletes of all body types, and the beds can sustain up to 440 pounds, enough for even the most imposing Olympians.

But Olympic officials still prefer that athletes sleep alone while in Tokyo, and stay away from each other everywhere else as well. A playbook outlining safety measures advises Olympic participants to “avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact such as hugs, high-fives and handshakes.”

To further discourage carousing, alcohol sales will be banned. Condoms, which have been distributed at the Olympics since the Seoul Games in 1988, will be provided to encourage safe sex, but only about one-third as many as the record 450,000 handed out at the Rio Games in 2016. And Olympic officials have made it clear that they are intended for athletes to use only once they’re back in their home countries.

The restrictions reflect widespread concern about the coronavirus as the Olympics get underway, especially with the highly contagious Delta variant fueling outbreaks around Asia. A strict testing regime has turned up dozens of positive results this month as more than 18,000 people have arrived in Tokyo for the Games.

Over the weekend, officials confirmed the first three cases inside the athletes’ village, including one organizer and two competitors. Some athletes have pulled out of the Games over safety fears, while others, like the teenage American tennis star Coco Gauff, have withdrawn after testing positive.

Hikari Hida contributed reporting from Tokyo.

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