The Best TikToks From the Tokyo Olympic Games, So Far
Want the best behind-the-scenes Olympics content? You're probably looking in the wrong place.
The 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo have shown themselves to be quite interesting. To state the obvious, they’re being played a year late due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and up until the Opening Ceremony, there was still uncertainty surrounding the status of this year’s Games, as Japan’s (and the rest of the world’s) coronavirus cases continued to rise. But it’s been an eventful week on the various fields of play as well. The torch-lighter and no. 2 tennis player in the world, Naomi Osaka, was unceremoniously bumped out of the Olympics after taking a much-discussed hiatus from the sport, the U.S. men’s basketball team lost their first Olympic game since 2004, and the equally dominant U.S. women’s soccer team scraped through to the knockout rounds with a record of just 1-1-1, having lost to Sweden in the opening game before drawing with Australia in the third. Then, the greatest gymnast to ever grace the earth, Simone Biles, stunned the world with the announcement she would be pulling out of the individual all-around competition citing her mental health. The decision sparked a mountain of online discourse (most of it supportive, some of it ludicrous), but established a much-needed precedent for athletes (and their spectators) that mental health and well-being come before a shiny medal.
Suffice to say, it’s been a rocky start to the Games for the red, white and blue. Luckily, that disappointment has been assuaged by a ton of amazing behind-the-scenes Olympic coverage that doesn’t come from NBC Sports or even the Olympic’s verified YouTube channel. Rather, it comes from TikTok.
The video-sharing app has swiftly become the leading platform for user-generated Olympics content, with Olympians from various countries and sports giving viewers an inside look at life in the Olympic Village, from the food they eat to — yes — how sturdy those cardboard beds are. They’re also proving themselves to be quite the jokesters, participating in TikTok trends and memes, when they’re not, ya know, winning gold medals, and TikTok users are eating it up:
“The Olympics is so much more fun now that tiktok is a thing,” commented one user. “Is it just me or [did] TikTok really change how the Olympics are viewed as there is more one [on] one interaction with the Olympians themselves,” wrote another. “I forget that they’re normal people sometimes and I love it.”
Most of the comments on Olympian’s TikToks share similar sentiments. The app has given viewers and fans the ability to ask questions and interact with athletes via comment sections while allowing Olympians to show off their goofy, relatable sides. TikTok has, in essence, humanized a bunch of superhumans, which has, in turn, sparked more interest in the Games. We all know Simone Biles, Alex Morgan and Katie Ledecky, but what about Ilona Maher and Cody Melphy, two (extremely funny) rugby players from Team USA, both of whom have gained momentous followings since posting their viral Olympic TikToks? As Vox’s Rebecca Jennings recently wrote, “That internet fame, in turn, is almost certainly helping athletes who aren’t one of the five or so that become household names during Olympics season — Simone Biles or Katie Ledecky, for instance — get recognition for themselves and their sport. Of her large following, Maher told NBC that ‘It’s very hard as female athletes. We don’t get a lot of resources or even a lot of attention.’”
This isn’t the first time TikTok has been an influential platform for female athletes in particular to garner the exposure and resources they deserve. During the NCAA tournament this past March, viral TikToks posted by women’s college basketball players exposed the glaring differences between the resources available at the men’s college tournament compared to the women’s. The social media outrage that followed even prompted the NCAA to give the female players the weight room they rightfully deserved.
But beyond exposure for lesser-known athletes, TikTok has simply cultivated a more intimate Olympic experience for both spectators and athletes, especially at an Olympiad where live spectators have been forced to stay home. In a way, Olympic TikTok is reminiscent of Election Week TikTok: a bunch of people from all over the globe enjoying and meme-ing a shared experience.
Below, enjoy some of the best content from Olympic TikTok … so far.
We must begin, of course, with the cardboard beds
The Olympic Village’s beds, made by the Japanese company Airweave, are an Olympic first. The beds are made almost entirely out of renewable materials and will be recycled into paper products after the Games. While they were built for sustainability, though, the cardboard beds have become an internet fixation for other reasons. Are they comfortable? Are they sturdy? Can you fuck on them? The beds were even the subject of a viral social media theory that claimed the beds were designed to deter Olympians from having sex.
That rumor was put to rest by multiple news outlets as well as the Olympians themselves, who posted reviews of their beds on TikTok. Olympic bed content on the video-sharing app became so prevalent the hashtag #cardboardbed has amassed more than eight million views. Various Olympians can be seen testing the beds’ durability, forcefully jumping on them, in some instances to the point of breakage.
POV: You’re walking in the Olympics Opening Ceremony
Something you’ve probably never done before: walked at the Olympics opening ceremony! Thankfully, Kelsey Robinson, a two-time Olympian volleyball player from Team USA, walked viewers through this year’s opening ceremony, which included singing happy birthday to Kevin Durant, handing off the flag to 4x WNBA champion and 4x Olympic gold medalist Sue Bird and giving most of us a POV we will never physically experience.
I would like to eat at the Olympic Village dining hall
Ever wonder what Olympic athletes eat in the Village? Well lucky for you there’s a slew of Olympic food content on TikTok, with Olympians showcasing all the grub they’re enjoying from the Village’s impressive two-level dining hall, which serves just about every cuisine you can think of.
Look at all the free swag they get!
Another perk of being a world-class athlete is all the free shit you get. Katie Nageotte, an Olympic pole vaulter, was kind enough to show off all her Team USA swag on TikTok:
Dating in the Olympic Village: not as easy as you think!
American rugby player Ilona Maher has become the darling of Olympic TikTok, quickly accumulating a massive following for her hilarious and relatable videos, some of which deal with what dating at the Olympics is like and her attempting to wife up a “tall foreign demigod lookin” athlete. Me too Maher, me too.
So that’s what Olympians do in their free time…
Turns out Olympians aren’t training nonstop during their free time. They go shopping, get their hair done, nails painted, play some ping-pong in the recreation room and people-watch from their Olympic Village dorms.
Lose badly … but then make it a meme
It’s an honor just to qualify, but competing at the highest level of your sport and then bringing home a medal for your country has to feel pretty damn good. Inversely, losing is heartbreaking. Fencing Olympian from Team USA posted about her loss the best way possible — poke fun of yourself using a TikTok meme.
Suni Lee celebrating her gold medal
I will boldly speak for all Americans when I say watching Suni Lee win Olympic gold in the women’s gymnastics all-around Wednesday night was the highlight of the Games. And watching her later celebrate her win on TikTok, dancing around her room and holding her gold medal as I would a glass of wine before a night out, was just as wonderful.
“I FEEL SO ALIVE”
One of the best parts of the Olympics is the commentators’ exuberant reactions. This clip, posted by NBC Sports’ TikTok account of commentator Rich Eisen, went viral for his unwavering passion during an archery event, giving us possibly the greatest Olympic soundbite after South Korea’s An San and Kim Je Deok both landed bullseyes: “I feel so alive!”
The real reason we’re watching the Games
What’re the Olympics if not an opportunity to thirst after the hottest male athletes in the world?
The haunting future of the Olympics
While not my favorite piece of Olympic TikTok content I’ve come across, I must share this eerie video of a seven-foot-tall AI robot sinking a shot from half-court. Toyota, who created the human-size droid, designed the machine to shoot basketballs with 100 percent accuracy out of “sheer fun.” If only the Greeks could see us now.
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