Athletes to Sleep on Cardboard for the 2020 Olympic Games

Olympic organizers are gearing up for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, which will start in July. Japan is big on offering recycled and reusable materials for this major event, and have even made all 5,000 gold, silver, and bronze medals from recycled electronics.

But when organizers took media through the Athletes’ Village to give them an idea of how these professionals will be living while competing, though, some people left the room questioning if Japan has gone too far.

Why? Because the beds aren’t wooden or metal, but cardboard. All 18,000 of them.

Why Japan Went With Cardboard Beds

According to organizers, Japan took a hard look at all the waste that went into creating an Olympic event and tried their hardest to reduce it. One way countries create waste is simply hosting all of these athletes.

That makes sense – you have to prepare thousands of beds for people who will only be in the country for a short time, and then what do you do with all of that product? Sure, some can be donated or reused, but much ends up in a landfill.

That’s where the idea of a sturdy cardboard bed that could be recycled afterward comes into play.

Cardboard Beds ‘Stronger’ Than Wood

Spokesman Takashi Kitajima dismissed questions about the quality or sturdiness of these beds, reassuring the media that they were “stronger than wooden beds.”

a bed from the 2020 olympic althlete dorms made of cardboard
Jae C Hong/AP/Shutterstock

“Those beds can stand up to 200 kilograms,” he explained. That works out to be about 440 pounds, which isn’t a small amount of weight.

“Of course, wood and cardboard would break if you jumped on them,” Takashi explained.

Are the Beds Recyclable?

The beds are made by a local Olympic sponsor, Airweave Inc, who created both the design and the final product.

The bed frames themselves are entirely cardboard and will be made into paper products when the event is over. The mattress, which isn’t cardboard but is adjustable for firmness, will be turned into plastic products. All of the bedding is made of renewable materials.

The rooms might look spare or outdated, but that’s actually very common. Allyson Felix, who has won six gold medals over several years, says that all athlete accommodations are basically like college dorms, where each sport takes up a whole block or floor.

“Here you are at the hardest competition of your life and you have a twin bed,” she said, laughing.

The apartments for the athletes are expected to be completed by June, with the opening ceremony happening on July 24.