Halfway through the Summer Olympics in Sydney, he and his rifle-toting teammates were finished with their events, and the U. Olympic Committee and team officials had ordered them to turn in the keys to their three-story house and head back to the States. But Lakatos didn't want to leave. He knew from his experience four years earlier in Atlanta, where he'd won silver, that the Olympic Village was just about to erupt into a raucous party, and there was no way he was going to miss it.
So he asked the maid at the emptied-out dwelling if she'd kindly look the other way as he jimmied the lock. Within hours, word of the nearly vacant property had spread. Popping up once every two years, the Olympic Village is a boisterous city within a city: The only thing missing is privacy -- nearly everyone is stuck with a roommate. So while Lakatos claimed a first-floor suite for himself, the remaining rooms were there for the taking. The first to claim space that night were some Team USA track and field fellas.
And I'm just going, 'Holy crap, we'd watched these girls run the night before. After a while, it dawned on Lakatos: I've never witnessed so much debauchery in my entire life. To join, prospective members need only have spectacular talent and -- we long assumed -- a chaste devotion to the most intense competition of their lives. But the image of a celibate Games began to flicker in '92 when it was reported that the Games' organizers had ordered in prophylactics like pizza. Then, at the Sydney Games, 70, condoms wasn't enough, prompting a second order of 20, and a new standing order of , condoms per Olympics.
Many Olympians, past and present, abide by what Summer Sanders, a swimmer who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze in Barcelona, calls the second Olympic motto: It quickly becomes clear that, summer or winter, the games go on long after the medal ceremony.
The games begin as soon as teams move in a week or so before opening ceremonies. Everyone's meeting people and trying to hook up with someone. Olympians are young, supremely healthy people who've been training with the intensity of combat troops for years.
Suddenly they're released into a cocoon where prying reporters and overprotective parents aren't allowed. Pre-competition testosterone is running high. Many Olympians are in tapering mode, full of excess energy because they're maintaining a training diet of up to 9, calories per day while not actually training as hard.
The village becomes "a pretty wild scene, the biggest melting pot you've been in," says Eric Shanteau, an American who swam in Beijing and will be heading to London. The dining hall is among everyone's first village stops.
So we look over and see two French handballers dressed only in socks, shoes, jockstraps, neckties and hats on top of a dining table, feeding one another lunch. We're like, 'Holy cow, what is this place? Don't pay attention to his butt! Sacramone has a few favorites of her own: And the track guys, they're sneaky-cute.
Very serious, but when they lighten up, you're like, 'Oh, you're kind of adorable. Some swear off sex until their events are done; others make it part of their pre-event routine. American shot-putter and silver and bronze medalist John Godina thought he'd seen it all in Atlanta: But he hadn't seen anything like the dorm room in Sydney he shared with a javelin thrower, which had instantly become a revolving door of women without backstories. Each day, the shaggy blond was visited by three women, sometimes just hours apart -- an accomplished pole vaulter and former flame; a mighty hurdler who "tried to dominate me," Greer says; and a "very talented" vacationer from Scandinavia.
Greer says his Olympian partners were, like him, looking to "complete the Olympics training puzzle. Amanda Beard, with two golds, four silvers and one bronze medal to her name, was in a relationship with another swimmer during the Games but says, "People would walk around for miles to try to sneak somewhere.
For most Olympians, the ramp-up to the Games is lonely. Not unlike movie stars on a far-flung movie shoot, the Olympics present the perfect opportunity to find a partner who understands where they're coming from.
When the hell are you supposed to meet someone? Now the pressure is done, you're meeting like-minded people Typically, the swimmers are some of the lucky ones who wrap up early.
For Lochte, that typically means "hitting a local pub and drinking with the soccer hooligans," he says. But a teammate in Athens had a better idea: I said, 'No, I'm innocent,'" Lochte says, laughing. But what most Olympians want, in the end, is to bring the party back to the village. The athlete compound soon becomes the site of an uneasy dance between jocks on a post-competition bender and those who have yet to compete.
Says Swiss swimmer Dominik Meichtry: They're getting on a bus and we're intoxicated, wearing fedoras, looking like crap. Displaced roommates become commonplace, with the standard sock-on-doorknob serving as the signal for "please go away. When they go out for a drink, it's 20 drinks. With a once-in-a-lifetime experience, you want to build memories, whether it's sexual, partying or on the field. I've seen people having sex right out in the open. On the grass, between buildings, people are getting down and dirty.
At the Lillehammer Games in , two German bobsledders tried using their medals as currency. I'll play with his. One skier tells a story from the Vancouver Games in , when six athletes -- "some Germans, Canadians and Austrians" -- got together at a home outside the Whistler village.
It turned into a whirlpool orgy. This time, when I'm done leaving my legacy on the track, I'll make sure London remembers me. They look for a challenge, like having sex with someone who doesn't speak their language. At the Montreal Games, three-time Olympic diver and four-time gold medalist Greg Louganis, appearing in his first Olympics at age 16, developed a kinship with the boys on the Soviet Union diving team and soon found himself partying in their rooms. It was crazy," Louganis says.
He was particularly struck by the Russians' sense of sexual liberation. But I had my eyes on one Soviet. I'd curl up in his lap; we'd hug and cuddle. I felt so protected. By the eve of the closing ceremonies, all of the events have wrapped, all bets are off and the home team often hosts one hell of a party. That was certainly the case in Sydney, where Australia's baseball and women's soccer teams threw a joint bash complete with a massive bonfire.
And that was the PG stuff. Then everything went inside. Somewhere in the middle of this party, typically, is America's women's soccer team, whose tournament runs the duration of the Games. Solo recounts the story: Vince Vaughn partied with us. Steve Byrne, the comedian. And at some point we decided to take the party back to the village, so we started talking to the security guards, showed off our gold medals, got their attention and snuck our group through without credentials -- which is absolutely unheard of.
But that's my Olympic secret. Needless to say, we looked like hell. For a few and the most committed, the games continue -- all the way home. On a United Airlines flight from Sydney to Los Angeles in , nearly Olympians were among the passengers, causing the flight attendants to begin the flight with a warning: Everybody else to the back with the Olympians.
I accidentally turn on the assistance light. This time, when I'm done leaving my legacy on the track," he says, laughing, "I'll make sure London remembers me. In Beijing, he was an year-old wunderkind American cyclist who night after night sat on his balcony, one floor below the gymnastics team terrace, and tossed Shawn Johnson prohibited Snickers bars.
But Phinney can't wait for London, where Johnson, who retired in June, will be on hand to fulfill her sponsorship obligations.