News Local

Emergency shipment of condoms to Vancouver


Organizers of the 2010 Winter Olympics underestimated many things.

The power of El Nino. The unpopularity of a fence obscuring the Olympic cauldron. The supply of condoms.

The supply of condoms?

The Toronto-based Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research said Wednesday that it is airlifting an emergency shipment of 8,500 condoms to the Olympic city. The original supply of 100,000 rubbers for the Vancouver and Whistler athletes' villages is running out.

"When we heard about the condom shortage in Vancouver, we felt it important to respond immediately," said CANFAR executive director Kerry Whiteside. "Safer sex is key to preventing the spread of the HIV virus."

The reasons for the condom cupboard running bare are not clear. Athletes and officials may be using them for safe sex. Or collecting them as souvenirs.

At a Sunday news conference, Canadian Olympic team mentor Marnie McBean said athletes were stuffing their pockets with prophylactics.

"It's kind of like a joke thing. People just take handfuls of them," said McBean, a three-time gold medal rower. "They're out there everywhere. They're just out and people grab them."

During a Feb. 9 tour of the Vancouver Olympic Village, volunteers at the athletes' polyclinic and fitness centre urged a reporter to take a handful of the made in India Durex-brand condoms from a small basket in a waiting room.

It is possible fun-loving athletes are heeding warnings about the rate of HIV outside the villages. The Southeast False Creek Vancouver Olympic Village is a short walk from the slums of the poverty-stricken Downtown Eastside where the HIV infection rate is on par with Botswana.

The demand for condoms at the Vancouver Games is in stark contrast to Beijing. Last fall, a collector auctioned 5,000 condoms that were left over from the 2008 Summer Games. The special edition sheaths were wrapped in souvenir packages that included the Olympic motto in both English and Chinese.