Accept it: The Olympics are a reality TV show. And at the 2021 Games, TikTok has allowed athletes to do the only thing braver and more patriotic than winning gold medals: content creation.
Every four years, countries send delegations of their most physically fit citizens to live in a compound, playing competitive games and exchanging jewelry. There’s heartbreak, tears of joy, little outfits, big shockers, and tons of drama. That’s reality TV!
This is not to discount the profound beauty of seeing athletes attain excellence. It’s just sweet that they do it under circumstances that are a cross between summer camp and Bachelor in Paradise.
Usually we experience the Olympics through the lens of big TV networks—just as reality producers do, sports commentators pick stars to focus on and storylines to follow. But this year at the 2021 Olympics, for the very first time, athletes are allowed to use social media during the games. If you’re not on TikTok, you might not know that athletes are providing 24/7 behind-the-scenes coverage of life at the Olympic Games.
It’s almost painful: Many of these very young, very hot star athletes are also funny and cool. Their videos are mesmerizing—they are capturing themselves in the exact moment of living their dreams. In tiny joyful snippets, they demonstrate the exact message Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka sent this week—that athletes are people, not just bodies.
Here are the best, happiest snippets of life at the Tokyo Olympics:
The behind-the-scenes secrets
Team Nigeria basketball player Erica Ogwumike shows off the Olympic Village despite her busy schedule: She’s in medical school and playing in the Olympics at the same time. Oh, and she’s not taking time off from school. “You have more time than you think,” she says.
Surprise, surprise, these people are pretty good at sports. But sometimes we only see them compete for like, 32 seconds. Team Australia diver Laura Hingston shows what it takes to be an Olympian:
Hingston also confirms—Olympic athletes are perfect, every time, no mistakes.
Team USA diver Tyler Downs gets star-struck by Simone Biles—wouldn’t you?
Team Brazil skateboarder Rayssa Leal is only 13 years old, so technically she’s the most age-appropriate Olympic TikToker. She also went viral on social media as a seven-year-old skateboarder in fairy wings, so it’s pretty cool to see her just being a teen at the Olympics with fellow skateboarder Margie Didal from Team Philippines.
The overwhelming joy of Team USA shot-putter Raven Saunders and her teammates is palpable, even at the airport.
“It is not that easy to go up to a pack of 6’7″ Romanian volleyball players and shoot my shot,” Maher, a Team USA rugby player, says in one of her many extremely good videos, responding to questions about life in the Olympic Village. If there were an Olympic sport for TikTok creation, it would go to Maher.
She also documents how team member Nana Faavesi doubles as the group’s beauty guru.
Team USA gymnast and brand new OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST Sunisa Lee shows off her mani days before the Olympics:
And Team USA rugby player Cody Melphy gets a haircut in the Olympic Village.
Team Australia diver Tilly Kearns realizes that she is living her childhood dream.
Raven Saunders, a Team USA shot-putter, celebrates her second Olympics at the age of 25.
The entire Olympic team from New Zealand measures their biceps.
And finally, the beds
Early reports had said that the cardboard beds issued to athletes at the Tokyo Olympics were designed to prevent athletes from ~burning extra calories~ (having sex). That’s not true—the beds are very sturdy and were made with cardboard so that they can be recycled, preventing some of the massive waste that Olympic Games can produce.
On TikTok, athletes-testing-beds videos has become a micro-genre. Watch and see, for once and for all: These are beds fit for Olympians.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.