I used dating apps during the Olympics and matched with athletes I would never see
Collage: VICE / Images: (G) Courtesy of Hanako Montgomery (R) CHARLY TRIBALLEAU / AFP
About three weeks ago, the profiles of my dating apps started to look very different. Shirts were taken off, dumbbells replaced puppies, and there were fewer people looking for English teachers. Naively, I thought maybe it was the universe that was finally good for me. I’ve had some pretty questionable dates since moving to Tokyo, and I haven’t come any closer to becoming someone’s main pressure. Maybe Tinder and Bumble stopped taking my love life as a joke and instead rewarded all my grief with attractive people.
But once I scrolled through their profiles a bit, I realized this was not my chance. There was a very different, but still welcome, capital O that could explain what I saw: the Olympics.
Right now, it’s no secret that the Olympic Village is the ultimate wing. Pack thousands of Olympians to the peak of their athleticism, mix that with the insurmountable stress of competing, and naturally many will find that there is no better way to burn off your energy than having a nighttime companion. .
In a year leading up to the pandemic, ordinary mortals like myself might have encountered one of these athletes. But the restrictions on who is entering and leaving the Olympic Village means there is no chance I will reach my Romeo inside. As far as results go, there would be no point in matching athletes on these dating apps, but now Gen-Zs like me understand that attraction knows no physical boundaries. Besides, I think flirting is half the fun.
Part of me was also curious as to why athletes were using dating apps, despite COVID-19 restrictions. Did they also feel the suffocating loneliness of a romantic with too much free time? Or maybe they wanted some kind of connection with the outside world, why hide in a corner of Tokyo? So, neither shaved nor waxed, I left to enjoy my (virtual) summer as a hot girl.
I use both Tinder and Bumble, but the latter is my go-to match. My Bumble profile features photos that represent what I look like maybe 10 percent of the time. One is a profile photo for work (sorry VICE), while another is of me looking at cherry blossoms. To highlight my âvibeâ in my bio, I also have a fun fact about eating lettuce. Recently I learned that you can pluck lettuce leaves one by one, instead of having to submit to the watery white parts at the end of your salad.
Now it was time to slide. I don’t have a type â actually, no, that’s a lie. Yes, but it is not based on a list of physical characteristics. She’s a self-confident person who can make me laugh, with whom of course I feel a kind of chemistry. Otherwise, I would engrave Steven Colbert’s name on the park benches.
I was surprised to find out how many people related to the Olympics were present on the apps. There were engineers, volunteers, journalists, athletes and technicians, all for the Tokyo Games. Once I paired up with Olympians (my lettuce fact worked) I was a little nervous. Some were famous so naturally I was star struck and assumed they wouldn’t do a good job because they saw a lot of girls like me wearing scythes and eating lettuce. Thanks, insecurities.
One of my favorite parts of dating as a single adult is the mutual and respectful ghosting. Nothing says maturity like accepting when you’re not clicking, instead of forcing hours of meaningless conversation. Some of my conversations have died down, but fortunately, of natural causes.
The conversations that continued were so entertaining – motivated people who work hard for a goal are attractive, and it was nice to hear about that energy. I was invited to visit parts of the world, asked why I was still single and told I was too cute to be real (huge ego boosts, could I add).
Of course, I also had a few turndowns when requesting interviews about why Olympians were on the app during the games. Some said outright no and unmatched with me, while others gave me conditional yeses: it was only after finishing the competition that they could speak. Others cited restrictions on the media they were allowed to speak to during their actual competitions.
But alas, one of my matches agreed to discuss the record. Can Akkuzu, a French table tennis player, said he was using the app to âmeet new people from the village, see how it’s going,â he told me. He said it was “too bad” that he couldn’t meet me, and that on a scale of 1 to 10 his grief and frustration was “9.5” (I don’t know how I got there. lost that extra 0.5).
Even before coming to Japan, athletes should be tested for COVID-19 every day for a week, as well as self-isolate. Once in the village, they are tested daily, must follow social distancing guidelines, and are not allowed to leave. Tokyo is experiencing a fourth wave of COVID-19 and there are fears that if athletes mingle with the locals, cases will increase further and potentially lead to a new variant. Thus, the athletes are kept in a world separate from the residents, the price they pay to compete this year.
In a normal year, Akkuzu vouched that the Olympics were a crazy time. Although he did not attend Rio 2016, his friends were there and shared their stories with him. âLet’s just say the bathrooms weren’t just used for taking showers,â he said. Earlier reports of course support this claim. At the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Jamie Anderson, an American snowboarder, said that “Tinder in the Village was the next level,” according to Us weekly. Addressing the athletes, ESPN reported couples tumbling out of bedrooms, duffel bags overflowing with condoms, and an orgy in a hot tub.
In the Tokyo 2020 village, the athletes have rules. They cannot kiss, greet, or have dinner with non-team members. It was even reported that the cardboard beds in the athlete’s rooms this year were to discourage sex in the (usually) promiscuous village. While this theory has been debunked, condoms, which were typically handed out to athletes during games, will not happen. Instead, they should take them home as keepsakes.
Most of the athletes said they were on the app to meet people, whether they were athletes from other sports or people from their own countries. Chatting on dating apps, as many of us can attest, has been a saving grace during COVID-19 restrictions. It pulls them out of their heads, beneath the timid anger that is romance.
Akkuzu has stated that he travels to Tokyo or Sapporo once a year for competitions, and before setting foot in Japan again, he will make sure to write to me “next year”. I will let my editor know if a follow-up is needed.
Although I’m still as single as when I first started sliding, I had a fantastic time matching the athletes who were here. As expected, they’re no different from regular people, although perhaps a bit more chiseled and better to respond – I attribute that to their elite time management. It was fun to learn about each of their sports and what they thought of Tokyo as little as they could appreciate. It’s also so much fun joking with athletes from different cultures. It is the assertion that sexual tension is a) universal and b) can certainly be felt virtually. I also left with a new crush.
There is something exhilarating about flirting, knowing that there is little to no possibility that you will ever meet. The athletes and I know our relationship begins and ends with jokes, but we’re always here for the ride. Nothing concrete can be learned from this, but hopefully one day I can redeem an open invitation from a certain Prince Charming (if you’re reading this you know who you are).