(Simulated) Olympic Sexuality

So now the Olympics, with its collection of sleek, muscular, and nubile bodies — the 99th percentile — is being billed as the world's "most exclusive VIP club", where those without a chance to win or who have already been eliminated from competition engage in a carnal form of bacchanalia in which sexual escapades with one another — or others — occur with regularity.

Once freed, many athletes simply cannot control themselves. They are slaves to an irresistible physiological force called "tapering" that works like this: many competitors in endurance sports consume as many as 9,000 calories a day at the height of their training cycles. But they swim or run or pedal seven hours a day to burn these off. In order to peak for the Games, however, they reduce their training time to mere minutes in the days preceding their events while keeping the calorie count virtually constant. Thus an athlete is spring-loaded for his or her moment in the sun: lots of rest, lots of energy - boom. The results, particularly within a large, like-minded population, can be electric. "When you have 10,000 people walking around who are amped up on their own glycogen you can almost see the sparks flying off their skin," says BJ Bedford, the American backstroke gold-medallist at Sydney.

The 70,000 condoms provided to athletes at the Sydney Olympics disappeared so quickly that organizers had to order 20,000 more. Two years later, 250,000 condoms were handed out at the Salt Lake Olympics, despite the city's predominantly Mormon base. And 130,000 condoms will initially be given out to open the Athens Games, the largest Trojan onslaught there since Antiquity.

Our sporting deities, then, though steeped in the Hellenic tradition of the Games, do not cavort on the bedrock of Mount Olympus in their post-sport play. Instead, they engage in their festivities, prophylactic layer intact, in the ever-shifting nomadism of the Athlete's Village, a rootless existence that parallels both the placelessness of hypermodern production and consumption, and the essentially disposable nature of our sporting deities.

For the global village congregation of spectators, meanwhile, the Olympic mythos and its simulated sex serve as a catalyst — via the digital prophylactic of the screenal economy — to release the tensile bondage between the libidinal and the lipidinal, and the circulation of capital continues anew.

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