The 2021 Olympics got off to a shaky start: postponed from the height of the pandemic last year, moved to July of this year and forced to continue with no spectators.
Long before Team USA’s Simon Biles’ withdrawal due to mental health reasons (and with coronavirus concerns simultaneously circulating throughout the internet), the Tokyo games were trending for all the wrong reasons!
Gossip began circulating that the Olympic athletes had been given cardboard bed frames to sleep on and that this was meant to restrict them from having sex.
The truth eventually came out that yes, the beds were made from cardboard, but anti-sex they were not!
What was the deal with these beds and all the media coverage they received? Let’s find out.
Where did the news come from?
Attention on the Olympic games in Japan began as early as 2019, and the cardboard beds were featured for the first time on USA Today in September.
The Associated Press followed up on the news in 2020. On both occasions, there was no information on the supposed sex curbing properties of the beds.
The emphasis was on the bed’s strength: as they were to be used for the athlete’s village in the Summer Games (as well as in the Paralympic village). Takashi Kitajima, General Manager, and other organisers even boasted about their sustainable design.
What did Olympians Have to say?
The anti-sex gossip only began when Olympians poured into their accommodations in Tokyo. An American track and field athlete, Paul Chelimo, who won silver at the Rio 2016 Summer Games, joked on social media about the flimsiness of the beds.
The beds were allegedly only built to support the weight of one person, although four distance runners managed to fit in one bed without it breaking. And yet rumours were rife that the real reason was to prevent intimacy among athletes.
Other athletes guessed that cardboard was used to prevent COVID-19 from spreading during this pandemic, yet the fire already caught on. Social media and news outlets broke out with coverage of the “anti-sex cardboard beds” of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
Fortunately, most people on Twitter and Tiktok reacted to it with amusement, and no one seemed to take the news seriously.
So, what is the truth?
Eventually, the myth of the anti-sex beds was debunked. Irish gymnast Rhys McClenaghan posted a video on Twitter showing the beds were far from flimsy. He jumped on the bed several times… even making an elbow drop on it.
The “anti-sex” take was proven to be fake news. Athletes would definitely be capable of getting up close and personal without worrying about their bed collapsing.
In fact, the strength of the beds has been highlighted time and time again, as athletes and gymnasts engaged in all kinds of feats to test the limits of the cardboard frames.
On Tiktok, Israel’s baseball team stood on the bed: starting with a single player and adding one person at a time. The structure withstood nine male athletes before collapsing under their weight. Carrying the weight of nine men is no small feat, especially for cardboard.
Cardboard vs other bed frames
As proven by the Olympic athletes themselves, the Japanese cardboard beds are no joke. Made by a company named Airweave, they are boasted to be sturdier than wooden beds.
The frame should support up to 200 kilograms in weight. Despite this robustness, the beds can be carried around easily, allowing athletes to customise their room layouts.
In comparison, metal and wooden bed frames can be heavy, difficult to move around, and sometimes flimsy if poorly made. Yet, they might make a better choice in the home since permanent living spaces require a permanent bed.
On the other hand, cardboard has the advantage of its light construction without compromising on strength. As the Olympic beds have demonstrated, cardboard could be a good contender, especially when temporary sleeping areas are needed.
Anyone can mass produce cardboard, and with a simple manual, frames can quickly be transported and set up.
The other winning feature of cardboard is the material is ideal for makeshift shelters for disaster-hit areas. Homeless shelters and hospitals (which have constructed temporary extensions of their wards) have also used cardboard.
With the effectiveness of the material in these situations, it seems cardboard beds are no laughing matter.
Sustainability at the Olympic games
The highlight of the Tokyo 2020 Games is sustainability, and the cardboard beds have brought that initiative to the public arena with their use of recyclable materials. The cardboard will be remade into paper products, while the mattresses will be turned into plastic products. ♻️
At the same time, the podiums of the champions are 3-D printed polyethylene, recycled from waste items the Japanese private and public communities have contributed. Just like the beds, the pedestals will be reused as shampoo and detergent containers.
The medals of the champions also came from donated electronic waste. All 5,000 medals were salvaged from millions of phones, laptops, cameras, and more. The contributions yielded 30 kilograms of gold, over 4,000 kilograms of silver, and more than 2,000 kilograms of bronze.
These salvaged materials became sustainable parting gifts to the Olympic champions.
Finally, Reuters reported on the Tokyo Games use of renewable energy, which a biomass power facility produced. Electricity will also be used to power electric cars that will serve as transportation for the Games.
Fake news shone a light on sustainability
What started as a joke and blew up as a bizarre example of fake news has become a testament to the sustainable efforts made at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Games.
The cardboard beds are part of a positive message on environmental preservation, now championed by no less than the Olympics.
Just as athletes around the world are performing in the Games to win medals for the honour of their countries, the Olympics has also been a massive WIN for the planet… and that deserves a gold medal! 🥇