Sex: The Olympic-Sized Subtext

A champion in her own right….
Go, Paraguay: Javelinist Leryn Franco shows her winning form

Sex for the sport / The metaphor I kick is rhythmic
So listen / No competition / My love’s Olympic
The pace that I set heats the mind until it’s scorched
Waiting for the games to begin with my torch comes the javelin
The distance, it can’t be measured
The pleasure, too deep / Infinity marks the record…

“Sex for the Sport,” Channel Live,
Station Identification (Capitol, 1995)

Surrounded by fellow countrymen, she stepped into the Beijing National Stadium, or “Bird’s Nest,” during the 2008 Olympics’ opening ceremonies. When the camera pulled in for a close-up, all a planetful of horny guys wanted to know is, Who is that? What is her sport? and Does it show a lot of skin?

“Well, at least I’m not in 52nd place.”As it turns out, her name is Leryn Franco, she’s 26, from Paraguay, and throwing the javelin shows more skin than gymnastics, though less than beach volleyball.

As it also turns out, she wasn’t really all that good at what she did, placing 51st in her field. (Czech athlete Barbora Špotáková got the gold. “Leryn Franco is Hot; Sucks at Javelin” read one blog post.)

So, what? Throwing a 600g spear isn’t how Franco makes her money.

This is:

Nice medals.

As Franco, herself, told Reuters, “Modelling is a way for me to continue with my sport, the hours are flexible, and you can earn good money through photographic modelling and the catwalk.”

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess, from what I’ve seen, that Miss Franco is kinda doing O.K. on her day job. Plus, it sure beats a lifetime of second-guessing one’s self, post- the Games, and asking, “What do I do next with my life?”

But what’s most remarkable to me about all this is the degree to which sexuality is an unspoken part of the way athletes, media, advertisers, and the Games themselves market the Olympics.

Of course, the web is filled with fans ranking their favorite world-class competition babes, like this collection of “The 50 Most Beautiful Women of the 2008 Beijing Olympics,” which introduced me to the fine work and fit physique of Norwegian handball captain Gro Hammerseng. (Is handball even in the Olympics? You’d never know it watching NBC.)

Touch it…why don’cha…But my point is that this is increasingly the purview of mainstream and official channels, it seems. Take the shot seen round the world of Michael Phelps celebrating his 4×100-meter freestyle relay gold, right. Or consider an image taken by the amazing Dan Winters of a 46-year-old Nadia Comaneci, blasting a missile across the bow for cougars everywhere, below. The bodies of athletes, and the unspoken potential of those bodies in motion, if you receive my meaning, always seem to faintly surround the Games, beckoning distantly like sirens’ songs.

I’ll tumble for ya….Though not so softly, more and more. “Who’s the fairest of them all?”, NBC asked on their web site, in a piece about the hotness of athletes, supplemented, as fits a corporate behemoth, by the tamest of pictures. (Even Swimmer Amanda Beard, who seems far too eager to get her kit off, doing so for both Playboy and PETA, appears in a modest evening dress, though I’m almost sure I can see her nipples through it.) This 2004 piece questioned the increasing visibility of athletes in “lad mags,” like FHM and Maxim. Says the author,

As a woman, and former college athlete, I should be more affected and have stronger opinions on this topic. And looking around, I can’t help but wonder why others aren’t more upset as well.

Has American culture come to this? Are sex and sports so commonly intertwined that FHM and Playboy have essentially become a sexier version of a Wheaties box?

I guess so.

In Germany, Four Olympic sportswomen are the covers—one for each athlete—in that nation’s September edition of Playboy, Reuters reported.

Sailor Petra Niemann, hockey striker Katharina Scholz, canoeist Nicole Reinhardt and judo fighter Romy Tarangul will add their names to the growing list of athletes getting their kit off for cash or a cause.

Cashing in on this interest pre-the Games, Coca-Cola Great Britain, “as part of an advertising campaign for Powerade, the official sports drink of the Beijing Games,” shot these pictures of nude British athletes, cresting with this power shot of rower-turned-cyclist Rebecca Romero, below:

Pedal faster!

As The Daily Mail, which ran the pictures, wrote, quoting Cathryn Sleight, marketing director for Coca-Cola Great Britain,

‘Everyone is used to seeing athletes in competition or winning, but we wanted to give people the chance to see the real make-up of an athlete and their muscle and power, celebrating the body and spirit and the hard work that goes into training for all athletes whatever your level.’

Oh-kayyyy. So, if Coca-Cola is doing this—in Great Britain, mind you; it would never fly here—is this trend, thus, already passé?

Richard Deitsch, associate editor at Sports Illustrated‘s website, told Reuters that “the taboo of posing for Playboy or modelling has started to wane.”

But Deitsch said for hard-core sports fans the appearance or sex appeal of an athlete might make them more interesting, but only if they were winning at their sport.

He said two good examples of sports stars who had used their looks to build a brand were English footballer David Beckham and Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova.

“Ultimately it does not get away from the fact that you have to be an athlete first and a beauty second,” he said.

“But when you have someone who is fantastic at both, then you are looking at a global brand.”

“Where’s my javelin?”Right. Tell it to Leryn Franco. (That’s the May image from her 2007 calendar, right.)

Oh, by the way, gents: She is now officially taken, and dating Serbian tennis pro Novak Djokovic.

How come those stupid TENNIS PROS have to get all the hot chicks????



#1 JC Delettrez on 08.22.08 at 12:52 pm

Tennis Pros get laid b/c they get paid. Check the salaries of some of these professionals, and some are definitely more PRO-fessional than others.

#2 sirensongs on 08.23.08 at 3:07 am

Nadia looks fantastic. As a 12-year-old gymnastics student she was my absolute idol; the photo of her FLYING off the bars arms outstretched still gives chills.

#3 Laney Landry on 10.15.09 at 1:50 pm

Beautiful and sexy and athletic. Absolute global branding that will increase the popularity and the bank account, but why not… if you’ve got it, flaunt it.

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