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Among the many storylines to keep an eye on in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are advancements in the equipment the competitors will be using. As science and technology march on, Olympic athletes have access to sleeker, lighter, thinner gear, allowing them to reach levels of performance above and beyond those of their predecessors.

We’ve seen this happen on the track and in the pool, but it’ll also be happening in the bedrooms of the Olympic Village, likely with the help of Olympic condoms from Japanese manufacturer Sagami Rubber.

Since the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, condoms have been distributed to Olympic athletes. This endorsement of bedroom diplomacy may seem like a base perversion of the spirit of the Games, but realistically, what else would you expect to happen with a massive group of healthy, fit, young people away from home and living in close proximity to one another for a few weeks?

At the 2012 London Games, 150,000 condoms, the largest quantity ever, were prepared for the 10,500 competitors. Shortages began occurring in just five days, illustrating either impressively frequent mattress athletics or an astounding number of balloon animal parties.

Prophylactics were also distributed at the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, with some being manufactured by Sagami Rubber, headquartered in Kanagawa Prefecture. Sagami Rubber’s polyurethane condoms were a hit with athletes because of their thinness, and the stock of 20,000 was quickly used up.

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Although the official suppliers for the upcoming Tokyo Games have yet to be selected, Sagami Rubber is hoping to once again receive the honor. “We hope to be able to recreate the reaction our products had at Nagaano,” said Sagami Rubber representative Hiroshi Toisawa. “Condom manufacturing is a specialty of Japan, and the Tokyo Olympics will be a great opportunity to show what we can do.”

Sagami Rubber’s current flagship condom, the Sagami Original, has a remarkable thinness of 0.024 millimeters. “Before the Tokyo Olympics, we’re going to get that down below 0.020,” promises Toisawa.

Producing such a thin condom is a high hurdle, though. Sagami Rubber’s offerings first got under 0.030 millimeters in 2005, when the company succeeded in making a condom with a thickness of 0.028 millimeters. The current 0.024-millimeter Sagami Orgiginal was released in 2011, meaning that six years were required for just four microns of progress. With seven years until the Tokyo Olympics, Sagami Rubber can’t afford to dawdle.

Truth be told, the Sagami Original isn’t the company’s thinnest product. That distinction goes to the top-of-the-line 0.022-millimeter Sagami Original Premium, certified as the world’s thinnest condom. However, the Premium also commands a single unit price of 500 yen (US$5), compared to 175 yen for a standard Sagami Original.

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However, Sagami Rubber is not the only manufacturer looking to outfit every man’s most-prized body part, world-class athlete or not. Like so many other memorable Olympic moments made possible by two rivals at the top of their game pushing each other to succeed, Tokyo-based condom producer Okamoto isn’t going to let Sagami Rubber take the podium without a fight. Also a supplier at the Nagano Olympics, Okamoto lays claim to the world’s thinnest latex condom at 0.03 millimeters.

Okamoto feels there’s more to making a good condom than just thinness. “Polyurethane has the drawback of being a little harder than latex, which we use” explained a spokesman for the company. “Also, the design of condoms tends to make them slightly thicker at the tip, but with our advanced production techniques, we’re hoping to achieve a uniform thinness.”

Sagami Rubber isn’t backing down from this challenge, and remains committed to using polyurethane. Toisawa understands that in simultaneously pursuing the seemingly conflicting goals of low-cost, thinness, and, of course, strength, his company has set a difficult target for itself. Like a true competitor, however, he’s keeping his eyes on the prize.

“With a condom thinner than 0.020 millimeters, it will hardly feel like you’re wearing one at all. This is going to be a revolution.”

▼ Count us in

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Source: Sponichi
Top image: Hunts Post
Insert images: Sagami Rubber, Rakuten, Global Research