September 29, 2022

Olympians are the most formidable athletes in the world. Watching them flaunt their superhuman strength, stamina, and form makes it easy to forget that many of them are not just mortals, but teenagers and 20-year-olds who live effectively in dormitories, circling their emotions and hormones and dodge as they battle for the ultimate honors in sports.

When not competing, athletes at the Tokyo Olympics are open to social media. Posts from the past two weeks, many of them on TikTok, show how this year’s Olympians are flirting, knitting, dancing, answering personal questions – and of course making sex jokes.

Here is just an excerpt of what happened during her downtime, as seen on the smallest of screens.

Athletes across the board – the Israeli baseball team, an Irish gymnast, American rugby players – have posted videos of themselves and teammates trying to damage the cardboard beds in the Olympic Village. Many of these “Test the Bed” videos were a humorous response to rumors that the recycled beds were provided to discourage athletes from having sex. (According to the manufacturer, this is not the case.)

In another hilarious take on the Olympic Village’s reputation as a connection zone, Noah Williams, a British diver, posted a TikTok video of himself and his teammate Tom Daley unwrapping hundreds of free condoms. (Contraceptives have been provided by Olympic Games organizers for more than 30 years to promote sexual health.)

Other Olympians use social media to remotely flirt with, or at least admire, their competitors.

Tyler Downs, an Olympic diver, posted a video on TikTok aimed at Simone Biles asking the decorated gymnast to “talk to me.” A Japanese fencer named Kaito Streets took the same approach with Naomi Osaka, the tennis player. While the videos are flirtatious, the young men are unlikely to have anything more on their mind than grabbing the attention of their sports idols and fans.

Gus Kenworthy, a commentator, posted a compilation of male athletes – some shirtless – while Charli XCX’s “Boys” played in the background. The text is far from subtle: “I was busy thinking about guys / guys, guys / I was busy dreaming about guys.”

Ilona Maher, a member of the US women’s rugby team, made no secret of her search for an “Olympic Bae” in Tokyo.

A user asked why the Olympians wouldn’t just talk to each other in person. “It’s not that easy to go to a pack of six or seven Romanian volleyball players and shoot my shot,” Ms. Maher said in a video. “I’m working on it, but I don’t know if it will work for me.”

Aside from the more goofy posts, many athletes have drawn the curtain on life in the Olympic Village and shared shots of the nail salon, gift shop, self-propelled vans, massage center, and flower shop.

Kelsey Marie Robinson, a volleyball player for the United States, checked the food in the village cafeteria. In a video she pans over a spread made from salmon, steak, peaches, melons, fried calamari, seaweed rice balls, vegetable tempura and a chocolate mousse. The mousse really caught their attention (“10/10” wrote Ms. Robinson.)

Erica Ogwumike, basketball player on the Nigerian team and medical student, gave a brief overview of the “Polyclinic” where athletes can receive acupuncture, dermatological treatments, physiotherapy and more.

Various athletes have answered frequently asked questions about their sport, themselves and the Olympics. (“How tall are you” is common with volleyball players.)

Cody Melphy, an American rugby player, used his TikTok page to answer other niche questions, such as whether athletes can keep the comforters that come with their cardboard beds (they are) and what happens if an athlete’s laundry is lost (Mr. Melphy washed his used clothes in a bathtub).

Mr. Daley, a diver and gold medalist who featured in the condom unwrapping video, also shared his progress on knitting projects. On an Instagram page dedicated to his knitted and crocheted creations, he said the hobby kept him “healthy”.

Some competitors brought their fans to the experience even before Tokyo. Liza Pletneva, a rhythmic gymnast from the USA, documented her team’s journey home, which included a six-hour layover in Amsterdam, an eleven-hour flight to Tokyo, and five hours of processing time on arrival.

In comments on these videos, TikTok users express their appreciation for how much inside knowledge the Olympians posted. Noah Schnapp, an actor best known for his role on “Stranger Things,” posted a video on TikTok saying he didn’t know that Olympic athletes were so “funny and normal” and that seeing was that their routines on TikTok changed the entire viewing experience.

So the ratings are there. Season 1 of Olympia TikTok is a success.