Olympic athletes are showing off their perfectly honed physiques in an effort to entice people to watch them compete in Rio.
This year’s Games have seen an amped-up fascination with the physiques of the competitors, as fans fawn over rippling abs and athletes share scantily clad selfies.
The trend kicked off after the Opening Ceremony on Saturday (AEST) with Tonga’s oiled-up flag bearer, taekwondo star Pita Nikolas Taufatofua, stealing the show and putting his small island nation in the global spotlight.
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the US men’s gymnastics team said they were considering competing with their shirts off to attract viewers to the sport.
“People make fun of us for wearing tights,” Sam Mikulak, 23, said. “But if they saw how yoked [muscly] we are maybe that would make a difference.”
Mikulak’s teammate Jake Dalton, a handsome 24-year-old who has already become the subject of an internet meme, agreed the gymnasts’ bodies were their greatest asset.
“We have great physiques,” Dalton said. “Incredible physiques.”
Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke, who is known for her trademark hip-swinging warm-up dance, sees no issue with adding a little sex appeal to athletics.
“There will always be people who don’t like what you do. I don’t let that get to me,” Jenneke told The New Daily last year.
“Women can be criticised for doing all sorts of different things … That’s just the way our society is.”
Jenneke has been sharing revealing photos on Instagram in the lead up to the Olympics, earning thousands of likes and comments.
Australian Rugby Sevens gold medallist Charlotte Caslick is also a fan of an Instagram selfie, regularly sending her 23,000 followers into a frenzy.
“I’m watching rugby 7’s right now and all I can see is a solid 10/10,” one follower joked beneath a bikini shot of Caslick, who is 21 years old.
Olympic fencer Miles Chamley-Watson, who also works as a male model, is using his good looks to bring his obscure sport into the limelight.
“Fencing is sexy,” the American told the NY Post. “It’s like the most tight pants . . . It started out, like, you used to fight for your loved ones. And you did it in the dark while holding a lantern.”
ESPN Magazine‘s annual Body Issue, launched in 2009, is another avenue for athletes to show off the culmination of months of training.
American football player Christen Press posed for the magazine and opened up about her struggles with body confidence.
“In this day and age, it’s really hard for women to love their bodies,” Press said.
“I’ve spent a lot of time being insecure about my body, but it’s done so much for me … I’m very grateful for the way that I feel when I play – I feel very powerful, I feel fast, I feel unstoppable, and that’s because of my body.”
Professor Murray Drummond, director of the Sport, Health and Physical Education Centre at Flinders University, said there’s the potential for this body consciousness to have both positive and negative effects.
“[Athletes] are in wonderful condition, of course they are going to have their shirts off … they are there to be gazed upon. What we do with that is a different matter,” Professor Murray said.
Professor Murray said as long as the athletes made a point of highlighting the work that goes into their bodies they had the potential to revolutionise body ideals.
“The work they are doing is far and beyond what the average person will do. As long as they are espousing healthy practices and promoting achievable goals it’s a good thing.”