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Why Condoms Are Hot Commodities at the Olympics

Dr. Elizabeth Yuko is the Health Editor at SheKnows. She is a bioethicist and writer specializing in sexual and reproductive health and the intersection of bioethics and popular culture. She is an adjunct professor of ethics at Fordham ...

Why Pyeongchang is basically hosting the sexual health Olympics too

The 2018 Winter Olympics have just begun but have already broken a record: Organizers are distributing 110,000 condoms to athletes — the most in the history of the Winter Games. (Approximately 450,000 condoms were given to participants at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.)

There are 2,595 athletes expected to compete in Pyeongchang over the next two weeks, meaning that each person has been allocated approximately 37 condoms. The bountiful prophylactics have been donated by a Korean condom developer appropriately named "Convenience" as well as the Korean Association for AIDS Prevention.

More: Behind the Steep Decline in Condom Usage

A spokesperson for Convenience told Korea Biomedical Review they are supplying "condoms for athletes attending the Winter Olympics with goodwill, and believe that Korea’s representative condom brand should donate for the event." They added, "We hope to aid the athletes visiting from various countries to complete their events successfully and safely.”

So why do Olympic athletes need all these condoms? It kind of makes sense when you think about it: A whole village full of world-class athletes in peak physical condition living in close quarters means sparks are likely to fly. It always helps to be prepared.

But it's not just the convenience of having condoms galore at the ready for athletes (as well as spectators and journalists) — it also sends a sex-positive message about the importance of enjoying yourself, but doing so as safely and responsibly as possible.

"While the vast amount of condoms seems to have caught people’s attention, the very topic of condoms and sexual health on a world stage is a great and necessary conversation that we all need to be having," says Scott Petinga, founder of Rouse Condoms — a company that distributes condoms and sexual health information to college campuses, family health centers and other organizations (though is not directly involved with the condom distribution at the 2018 Winter Olympics).

These games are also the 30th anniversary of the first public distribution of condoms at the Olympics, which also happened to be in South Korea. The organizers of the 1988 Seoul Winter Olympics distributed approximately 8,500 condoms, specifically highlighting the need to stop the spread of HIV — a concern that remains today.

More: How Custom-Fit Condoms Can Change Sex

"With AIDS on the rise again, STDs at a record high and a recent CDC study showing that less than half of millennials use condoms for protection, I think public distribution of condoms is socially responsible and should actually happen more frequently," Petinga tells SheKnows. "We should encourage and educate individuals to use protection; and by giving them the resources, whether they partake in sexual activities or not, it’s more likely that they’ll use them.”

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