What would happen if the Olympic athletes started competing naked again?

Ancient Greek legend has it that in 720 BC, an Olympic athlete named Orsippos of Megara was participating in the 185m race when his loincloth slipped. Rather than stop to hide his shame, Orsippos sprinted and won the race, naked.

When the Olympics were revived in modern times, in 1896, mores had changed. The organizers didn’t even consider reviving the Greek tradition of naked competitions. “What if the already very special Tokyo Games took an even more unusual turn by reinstating the original Greek Olympic nudity?”, wonders BBC. While no one really takes this possibility seriously, the idea raises interesting questions about athletic performance, cultural norms, or sexism. Indeed, if certain sports clothes have a real interest – to maintain the breasts of women or the genitals of men – their contribution to athletic performance is less clear.

According to Olga Troykinov, professor of human-based engineering at RMIT University in Melbourne, the garment has many uses for athletes. First of all, it evens out the body and allows the power of the muscles to be better directed towards the task at hand. For example, weight lifting belts can be useful in stabilizing the muscles of an athlete so that they can focus all of their energy towards the work they are performing.

The physical and psychological effects

Very smooth fabrics can also reduce the resistance the body encounters when moving through air or water, a boon for many types of sports where speed is the key to success. For example, in addition to shaving their legs, riders can also benefit from tight-fitting clothing, with rough areas strategically placed to create a definite trail behind them.

But above all, competing naked would have an influence on the type of people allowed to go to the Olympics. The more conservative countries could, for example, ban competition from their athletes. Also, it would raise legal and ethical questions if minors were also to compete naked. As for female and transgender athletes, according to Ruth Barcan, associate professor of gender studies at the University of Sydney, they would do “inevitably” face more judgments than their cisgender male counterparts. Unfortunately, there are many precedents to prove it.

Finally, the psychological effects of naked competition obviously affect athletes more than the strictly physical consequences. “Imagine filtering through the millions of comments made about the most intimate parts of your body”, points out Ruth Barcan. Indeed, taking into account these constraints, the winners of the first naked Olympics were perhaps not the most efficient, but those most able to channel the state of mind of ancient Greece.

Source: Slate.fr by www.slate.fr.

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