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. But in the time of the coronavirus, when Olympic organizers worried about transmission are trying to discourage close contact as much as possible, some suggested 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 could withstand 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 on Monday.
But Olympic officials still prefer that athletes stay away from each other. A playbook outlining safety measures advises Olympic participants to “avoid unnecessary forms of physical contact such as hugs, high-fives and handshakes.”
The restrictions reflect widespread concern about the coronavirus as the Olympics get underway, especially with the highly contagious Delta variant fueling outbreaks around Asia.
Hikari Hida contributed reporting from Tokyo.