The Ancient Greeks were nude when they participated in the Olympics; Sports Illustrated's swimsuit issue is always popular, and now ESPN The Magazine will publish a "Body Issue" in which the (male and female) athletes are nude.

Editor in chief Gary Belsky says the issue, which hits stands in October, would be "tastefully done," with strategically placed equipment, like the nude photos of Winter X Games athletes the mag published in 2004 (example above).

While it makes perfect sense to celebrate the bodies of athletes — for power, strength, flexibility and talent, with maybe a hint of titillation — it does seem odd that a sports magazine would have to "take it off" to sell more issues or garner attention. But while ESPN has a respectable 2.1 million circulation Sports Illustrated — home of the naked chicks who are not athletes — boasts a 3.2 million issue circulation.

But Belsky tells USA Today he's not about to go cheesecake: This is going to be about sports. And sports is about bodies." And he claims the Body issue is not really competing against the Swimsuit Issue: "We'll be completely relevant to sports fans. They're relevant to swimsuit fans. And body-painting fans."


Skin Game: 'ESPN' Takes On 'SI' By Posing Athletes In The Nude [USA Today]