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Athletes on TikTok are switching up the Olympic perspective

Virtual tours of the Olympic Village, cardboard beds, crushes on competitors, and daily coronavirus testing are all new elements of this year’s spectator experience.

Qualifying for the Olympics is a level of achievement any professional athlete dreams of.

So, when we think about the qualities of those competing, which words come to mind? ‘Disciplined’, ‘strong’, ‘laser-focused’, perhaps even ‘serious’ are probably amongst them.

After all, these competitors are the best in their field. They break world records and train harder in one day than most people do across an entire week. To us, they’re basically superhuman.

We don’t really know much about them though, as insights into the personalities of athletes are usually gathered through interviews, while narratives around the event are shaped by official media.

This year, participants are changing the tone. Many are gaining a strong fan base on social media by taking to TikTok for a never-before-seen look at what life is like at the Tokyo Olympic grounds – and it’s making for some pretty amusing content.

For obvious reasons, spectators aren’t allowed at this year’s games and socialising amongst entrants is limited by a mandatory two-week quarantine on arrival.

During this time, they’re knitting, casually balancing med school alongside the competition, toughing out daily COVID tests, and pinching themselves to make sure they’re not dreaming.

Nevertheless, there have been plenty of opportunities to showcase the event from a more personal, human-like angle – and many are surprised how normal these ‘superhumans’ really are.

Cardboard beds

Perhaps one of the most hype-inducing subjects within the village are the cardboard beds athletes have been given to sleep on. The hashtag #cardboardbeds has 7.5m views on TikTok.

Rumours quickly swirled that the aim was to prevent athletes from sleeping together. Rather less scandalously, the cardboard was actually selected as an environmentally sustainable option for the Olympians temporary housing (slow clap).

These assumptions were also squashed by the news that they can hold close to 450 pounds. To prove this, several athletes put the bed’s strength to the test – see for yourself.

@ilonamaher

Testing out the cardboard beds at the Tokyo Olympics #beastbeautybrains #olympics #tokyoolympics #tokyo2020 #tokyo2021 #usarugby #rugger #teamusa

♬ original sound – Ilona Maher

Eating clean

Australian water polo athlete Tilly Kearns takes us on a POV of the dining hall and its COVID protocols. Admittedly, it makes socialising difficult and looks slightly miserable, but it must be done in the name of safety. Not to mention, the food is free.

@tillykearns

Olympic dining hall COVID protocols #olympicspirit #tokyoolympics #olympics #australia what else do you want to see??

♬ Say So (Instrumental Version) [Originally Performed by Doja Cat] – Elliot Van Coup

Love is in the air

Put thousands of ultra-fit 20-somethings together in a village for several weeks and it should come as no surprise that the Olympics has turned into a sports-themed Love Island in previous years.

US diving champion Tyler Downs confesses his attraction to Simone Biles, who unfortunately for him has pulled out the games. Maybe next time, Tyler.

@tylerdownss

heyy girl we are teammates 🤣

♬ original sound – TOP 2⭐️

Question time

The opportunity to answer the questions Olympic viewers really want to know is made possible by TikTok. Here, Nigerian basketball player Erica Ogwumike answers some left in the comment section with her teammates. She also gives us a village tour, which even includes a hair and nail salon.

@nerdyhooper

LET’s ADDRESS THE BEDS IN THE VILLAGE 😂 ft my teammates: @atonyejennifernyi and @ipromisee10 #tokyoolympics #tokyo2020 #fypシ #nigeria #basketball

♬ original sound – erica ogwumike

No, it’s not a beer

But they can pretend. USA’s Rugby team player Cody Melphy gives us a behind the scenes look at post-match routines – which include rehydrating with electrolytes, ice baths, and sometimes, random drug tests.

@codymelphy

Insight to what Team USA does between games for 6 hours! #2020olympics #tokyo2020 #olympicvillage #olympics #tokyoolympics #teamusa

♬ Dreams (2004 Remaster) – Fleetwood Mac

Get me out of here

Perhaps the most relatable of all is Great Britain’s sprinter Lavia Nielsen, who expresses our all too familiar feeling of getting out of national lockdown. For the unlucky ones, you’ll know how she feels finally leaving quarantine.

@laviainielsen

and that’s on the Tokyo Olympics being strict with their covid protocols 😷 #tokyoolympics

♬ original sound – maisie 🐒

As it turns out, Olympians are a lot like us – and why wouldn’t they be? They love to sleep, eat, chill out, and some of them have a decent sense of humour.

The power of social media has brought us a step closer to those who we often forget are real, simply because we only see them on screen.

In fact, the way we view high-level athletes has changed a lot this year, especially in regard to their mental health.

Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles have chosen to prioritise their wellbeing over major sport events, sparking conversation about the dual importance of health in both mind and body.

 

With Tik Tok booming to popularity, and the Olympians having little contact with the outside world, the app has become a natural avenue to share their experience – one few people will ever see with their own eyes.

It’s entertaining for us, and something of a stress-distraction for them while dealing with the pressure of competing in the world’s most renowned sporting event.

Over the years, social media has been blamed for inciting a myriad of social and mental problems in young people.

However, athletes at the Tokyo Olympics have harnessed the tool in a way that brings out its best feature – the ability to bring us all a little bit closer.

 

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