“Yes, the beds really are made of cardboard,” Australian water polo player Tilly Kearns said in one TikTok. She then pulled the mattress to reveal a patchwork of cardboard slats, resembling partitions for safely mailing vinyl records or wineglasses. “But it’s really hard cardboard, so it’s not going to break,” she added. Whew!
She then showed off the cornucopia of add-ons, such as mattress toppers for a softer sleep and extenders — of course, are made from cardboard — for the taller athletes.
“Tell me you’re in the Olympic Village without telling me you’re in the Olympic Village,” one member of the New Zealand rowing team said in a video posted on the team’s TikTok account, while his teammate sat on one of the cardboard beds — which strained precariously under him like a waterlogged Amazon box filled with bricks.
Now you may be thinking, “Oh, they must be made of cardboard to prevent the athletes from having sex.” Okay, maybe you weren’t — but U.S. runner Paul Chelimo sure did. He sparked a rumor that swept the Internet after posting a series of tongue-in-cheek tweets.
“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,” he tweeted, though he added that he wasn’t too worried, given that track and field stars tend to be on the svelter side. “I see no problem for distance runners, even 4 of us can do.”
In reality, the packing-box pallets are just more environmentally friendly. After the Games, the frame itself will be recycled as a paper product and the polyethylene mattress will become plastic.
“The organizing committee was thinking about recyclable items, and the bed was one of the ideas,” Takashi Kitajima, the general manager of the Athletes’ Village, told the Associated Press. He added that the beds are stronger than wood and can hold up to 440 pounds each, a fact that will surely frustrate anyone who’s had a delivery box fall apart in their hands.
Speaking of wet cardboard, no one has yet addressed Chelimo’s other concern: “Those who pee💦 on the bed are at risk here, once the carton box is wet the bed falls over ... it will suck if its a night before finals.”
The delicate fluid question may go unanswered, but Kitajima did say that the beds probably wouldn’t withstand any wild activity: “Of course, wood and cardboard would each break if you jumped on them.”
Seemingly taking that as a challenge, Ilona Maher and several other members of the U.S. rugby team tested out their sleeping surfaces with various forms of athletic abuse, including burpees, cheerleading kicks and the aptly named “wife dramatically crying after finding out her husband cheated on her with his secretary,” with a be-robed Maher curled up in the fetal position and faux-sobbing on the mattress. Even “the Michael Phelps,” which involved a swan dive onto the bed, didn’t crack the frame.
While the recyclable bunks proved to be TikTok’s leading topic of conversation, Olympic athletes have been posting about all facets of the Games, offering glimpses into their daily routines, small rivalries and the village where they’re all residing.
Maher hasn’t only attacked beds, for example. She showcased a number of the village dining options, which included spring rolls, ramen and, surprisingly, deep-fried Camembert cheese. (You know, that traditional staple of high-powered athletes’ diets!) In another, she successfully navigated the hall’s complicated trash disposal system, which includes specific bins for “leftover drinks,” “plastics,” “cutlery” and “chopsticks,” among others. In another she pleaded with the U.S. skateboarding team: “Can you guys save some swag for the rest of us? You guys are really hoarding it all. Just standing, the amount of cool that you guys emit is unmatched.”
U.S. rugby player Cody Melphy posted a video exploring the pressing issue of “what happens when they lose your laundry at the Olympic Village.” As it turns out, you do it yourself by standing on your clothes in a half-full bathtub and moving them around in a modern-day re-creation of Lucy and Ethel stomping on grapes to make wine, then hang them out to dry on the balcony.
Some are more serious, such as Kearns’s explainer showcasing the measures everyone is taking to avoid contracting the coronavirus. Some are goofy, such as U.S. volleyball player Erik Shoji asking his teammates to dance their best shimmy.
But one thing’s clear: They have the world’s attention. British diver Tom Daley went viral after posting a one-minute exploration of the Olympic Village that has been viewed nearly 3 million times. It features everything from self-driving buses that carry the athletes around to views of the Tokyo Bay to his dorm’s high-tech toilets, which have more buttons than a remote control.
And, yes, he tested out those beds.