Olympians: They're fit and don't we just know it

From Tom Daley's six-pack to scantily clad volleyball players, Olympic athletes are being sold on their sex appeal. Why can't we appreciate talent, not totty?
  • @timwalker

On Monday morning, Jessica Ennis graced the covers of no fewer than five national newspapers, including this one. Over the weekend, she won a heptathlon in Austria, breaking the British points record set by Denise Lewis, and positioning herself at the front of the pack for a gold medal at the London Olympics in July. Breaking records may be an uncommon occurrence for Ennis, but appearing on a front page is not. Newspapers will use any excuse to publish her picture. She's also the face of Aviva, Powerade, BP, Adidas, Omega watches and Olay Essentials. She may be a gold medal contender, but it doesn't hurt that she's fit – and not just in the cardiovascular sense. London 2012, more than any previous Olympics, is being sold to us with sex.

Take diver Tom Daley, who, reports Grazia magazine in its weekly "Chart of Lust", just turned 18. The Justin Bieber of the diving board appeared semi-naked in The Sunday Times Style supplement at the weekend, alongside an interview which described him as a "Hunk in Trunks". Another paper profiled British boxer Anthony Ogogo last week, with an image of his rippling torso and the headline quote: "It's not true what they say about sex before a big fight."

Britain's canoeing team won three medals at the Beijing games; an unscientific search for mentions of Olympic canoeing in the UK media this year yields 173 hits. Olympic beach volleyball, on the other hand, produces 340 hits – even though the British team hasn't competed since Atlanta 1996, and hasn't much hope of winning here. Nonetheless, the GB women's beach volleyball team took up plenty of column inches when they played on Parliament Square in their smalls to help launch Transport for London's "2012 Games 'Temporary Road Changes' planning tool." Why not the badminton team? Because they wouldn't stop traffic.

In the US, meanwhile the media is jolly excited about devout Christian hurdler Lolo Jones, 29, who is not only attractive, but also preserving her virginity until marriage. "I've had guys tell me, 'If you have sex, it'll help you run faster'," she recently revealed on American television. The cover of US Vogue's Olympic edition features a trio of Olympian hotties: swimmer Ryan Lochte, tennis champ Serena Williams and goalkeeper Hope Solo. Are they exhibiting their sporting prowess? Of course not: they're strolling along a beach in fancy swimwear.

Athletes are in their physical prime, so it's little wonder they've washboard stomachs and perfect skin. Stories of promiscuity in the Olympic villages are all too plausible. And for the press, the Games provide a rare and irrefutable reason to publish pictures of attractive men and women with very few clothes on: underwear is, after all, professional attire for Ennis, Daley, Jones and any beach volleyball player. But as the Games begin, spare a thought for those sportspeople who don't also look like supermodels. We shan't publish their pictures; that wouldn't be fair. So here are some hotties instead.