Can Athletes Drink in the Olympic Village? It Depends on the Country

Hard-working Olympic athletes deserve a celebratory (or conciliatory) beverage more than almost anyone. But for many Olympians living in the Olympic Village, they’ll have to go elsewhere for their libation of choice. Depending on which country they’re representing, alcohol may be banned in the athlete’s living quarters.

Alcohol restrictions start with the rules set by the International Olympic Committee. According to Olympic Village policies, “alcohol will not be sold to individuals in the Olympic Village and the consumption of personal alcohol is restricted to private spaces.” From there, each country’s policies vary as much as each nation’s general approach to alcohol.

Mark Jones, the managing director of communications for Team USA, tells Supercall that, “Alcohol is prohibited in Team USA’s facilities at the Olympic Village.” Full stop. The ban doesn’t necessarily extend outside of the Olympic Village, however. This can obviously lead to problems, as evidenced by Ryan Lochte and a few other USA swimmers who drunkenly vandalized a Brazilian gas station after drinking with the French. Also in 2016, Dutch gymnast Yuri van Gelder was kicked off the team for drinking in Rio.

Other countries have more trust in their athletes. Jack Taunton, a professor at the University of British Columbia who has worked on the Canadian medical team for eight Olympics, including as chief medical officer in 2010, tells Supercall that, “[The team has] never had a problem that I can remember with alcohol.” The current chief medical officer, Robert McCormack, elaborated further.

“Alcohol is not a performance substance, which is our focus,” McCormack tells Supercall in an email from PyeongChang. “Indeed, alcohol negatively interferes with performance in several ways. On top of that, we have to make sure celebrating does not negatively impact other athletes preparation, etc.”

The Canadian Olympic committee has a beer sponsor, McCormack says, and there are drinks in the staff lounge to enjoy at the end of the day. But athletes from events like motor sports and shooting sports are understandably kept from drinking. The Canadians may be onto something here. Ma Long, a Chinese ping pong player, credits a drink or two with his success on the table. That, of course, translates more to curling than downhill skiing in the Winter Olympics.

For Americans and the other countries that ban alcohol in their Olympic Village headquarters, that nerve-calming drink will have to be found out on the town instead. May we recommend some soju?