Participants in the 2020 Olympic Games will be subject to many COVID-19 rules. But social media posts and a news report falsely claim athletes will be sleeping on specially made, flimsy “anti-sex beds” to prevent intimacy and COVID-19 infection. The beds were designed before the pandemic and can bear more than 400 pounds, the mattress company said.
Amid concerns for athletes and the international community during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Olympic Games were postponed from the initial start date in July of last year. The opening ceremony began in Tokyo on July 23, and the games are set to run through Aug. 8. The Summer Paralympics will be held Aug. 24 to Sept. 5.
There still will be many restrictions and rules at the games in Japan as the pandemic continues. Spectators have been banned from all venues. And participating athletes will be required to follow strict guidelines, including those related to quarantining, testing, masking and social distancing.
As athletes began arriving in the Olympic Village, however, a news report and social media posts distorted the limitations set for the participants.
One Facebook post falsely claimed, “Not other games in Tokyo. Athletes will be using ‘anti-sex’ beds at the Olympics, reportedly made from cardboard and are only designed to be able to withstand the weight of one person. The beds are recyclable and expected to break with any sudden movements.”
An Instagram post picked up the bogus claim: “Tokyo 2020: ‘Anti-Sex’ beds for athletes to prevent intimacy in Olympics Village.”
The claim was amplified in a July 18 New York Post story headlined “Athletes to sleep on ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds at Olympic Games amid COVID.” As evidence, the story quotes a July 16 tweet from Team USA distance runner Paul Chelimo that reads in part, “Beds to be installed in Tokyo Olympic Village will be made of cardboard, this is aimed at avoiding intimacy among athletes.”
The New York Post story posits that this is intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19. “The world’s best sports competitors are set to spend their nights on cardboard beds — allegedly designed to collapse under the weight of fornicators to discourage sex amid COVID-19,” the article said.
While it’s true that the Olympians’ beds in Tokyo are made of cardboard, and are intended to be recycled, claims that their design is intended to deter sex between athletes or that they “break with any sudden movements” are not accurate.
The beds were designed before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. The Japanese mattress company Airweave revealed the design at a press conference in September 2019, a spokesperson told us in an email.
And the beds do not break under the weight of more than one person. An official statement released on Twitter by the company on July 20 says that the beds can withstand up to 440 pounds. The statement also describes how the company conducted pressure tests to ensure the beds’ durability. One such test can be viewed here.
USA Today reported on Sept. 24, 2019, that Takashi Kitajima, a Tokyo 2020 organizer in charge of the Olympic Village, said that the aim of the cardboard beds was to provide comfort for the athletes while also being environmentally sustainable.
Rhys McClenaghan, an Irish gymnast, tweeted an in-person demonstration of the durability of the beds on July 17. He filmed himself jumping repeatedly on one of the beds while saying the claim that the beds break easily is “fake, fake news.”
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
Airweave spokesperson. Email to FactCheck.org. 22 Jul 2021.
Airweave website. Airweave.com. Accessed 22 Jul 2021.
Chappell, Bill. “Tokyo Olympics Postponed For A Year.” NPR. 24 Mar 2020.
Gleeson, Scott. “Athletes to sleep on recyclable ‘cardboard’ beds during 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.” USA Today. 24 Sep 2019.
International Olympic Committee. “Joint Statement from the International Olympic Committee and the Tokyo Organising Committee.” 24 Mar 2020.
Meyer, David. “Athletes to sleep on ‘anti-sex’ cardboard beds at Olympic Games amid COVID.” New York Post. 18 Jul 2021.
Winsor, Morgan. “What are the COVID rules at the Olympics, from spectators to vaccinations?” ABC News. 10 Jul 2021.