One of the shorter lines at the Olympic Village McDonald's in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
By Brad Tuttle
August 16, 2016

McDonald’s has a reputation for being, well, not the healthiest place to eat—certainly not where you’d think top athletes would dine.

But it turns out McDonald’s is phenomenally popular with Olympic athletes and coaches in Rio. This may be in part because McDonald’s is free in the Olympic Village for athletes and coaches, but still, it’s shocking how crazy Olympians have been for Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets over the past couple of weeks.

The Washington Post was among the first media outlets to take notice of how insanely long the lines have been at the Olympic Village McDonald’s: “Morning and night, in blazing sun or stiff wind, come stray bullet or whiff of sewage, the Olympians will be waiting for their fries.”

Due to the lines, as well as the all-important free factor, the size of athletes’ orders have been even crazier than the waits for food. The Post reported that things had gotten so out of hand with huge orders that McDonald’s instituted a 20-item maximum per order. It’s not a hard maximum, however; athletes can still order more than 20 items at a time, but then the order will dip in priority and take longer than normal.

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Australian badminton team member Sawan Serasinghe posted a photo of his gluttonous order—one with 22 items—on Instagram:

Jamaican gold medalist sprinter Usain Bolt, who said he ate 1,000 Chicken McNuggets during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was unsurprisingly spotted chowing down on some nuggets early on in the games.

Some athletes from China have been among the regulars hitting up the Golden Arches. “The Chinese basketball team, they come all day, every day,” one McDonald’s employee told the Washington Post. “The Chinese eat Big Macs at 9 a.m. It’s crazy.”

The images posted of huge lines at McDonald’s and famous athletes going overboard with fries, milk shakes, and fast food burgers has proved to be a marketing coup for McDonald’s, especially given the implicit message sent to the masses: Hey, if Olympic swimmers, rowers, and track stars eat McDonald’s, it can’t be that bad for you, right?

It’s not just McDonald’s that available for free to the athletes. The entire Olympic Village is basically one giant schwag bag for the athletes, as the (Australia) Courier Mail noted:

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The free condoms are always popular too: An estimated 450,000 free condoms have been made available gratis for Olympic athletes in Rio, and some have worried whether that’s enough.

The world’s best athletes on the planet apparently have supersized appetites in more ways than one.

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