Beijing provides 100,000 condoms for athletes

BEIJING Tue Aug 12, 2008 1:19pm IST

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BEIJING (Reuters) - The Sydney Olympics ran out. Athens doubled the number. So organisers of the Beijing Games are hoping 100,000 condoms will satisfy the needs of Olympic athletes.

While sex is not an Olympic sport it is expected to be an activity in the Beijing village housing 10,500 athletes, all of whom are in great shape and with plenty of free time on their hands once knocked out of the Games.

Athletes have received free condoms at every Olympics since Barcelona in 1992 to help raise awareness of AIDS, and Beijing is no exception.

"There are many young, strong, single people in the athletes' village and, like everywhere, some will fall in love or other things so we need to make condoms available," Ole Hansen, spokesman for UNAIDS China, told Reuters.

"A lot of these young people are not married or in relationships so we want to make sure they have the information and tools to protect themselves if they have sexual encounters."

The UNAIDS, the Beijing organising committee BOCOG and International Olympics Committee are providing 100,000 condoms as part of a campaign on HIV prevention and anti-discrimination.

At the Sydney Games in 2000 athletes quickly exhausted a supply of 70,000 and another 20,000 had to be brought in.

The Foundation for AIDS Research, amfAR, said 100,000 were distributed at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 after a plan to distribute 250,000 condoms met protests by religious groups and was scaled back.

At Athens in 2004 about 130,000 condoms were distributed.

Hansen said the number available at Beijing was based on previous Games' experience and in keeping with previous Olympics would be available at medical centres at athletes' centres in Beijing, Qingdao and Hong Kong rather than put in rooms.

"We have people here from all religions and cultural backgrounds, some of whom may feel uncomfortable or offended with condoms in their room," he said.

To be discreet, two condoms are tucked inside every a brochure about HIV that are available at medical centres.

"No one can see that you are carrying condoms to save any embarrassment," said Hansen.

"People are encouraged to take the leaflets and to take as many as they like. They can use them or take them home for friends and spread the knowledge and awareness."

Chinese condom makers have jumped on the Olympics bandwagon.

One manufacturer, Elasun, has come up with a set of cheeky advertisements featuring a stickman swimming over a rippled condom that looks like a wave, riding two condom rings like a bicycle, and using a condom as a basketball hoop.

Condoms depicting the five Olympics mascots are also for sale on various online sites although nowhere to be seen in official merchandise stories.

(For more stories visit our multimedia website "2008 Summer Olympics" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)

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