When Gender Equality in the Olympics Isn’t So Equal

TOKYO – For the first time since the modern Olympics were founded 125 years ago, the Games have almost reached gender equality.

According to the International Olympic Committee, about 49 percent of the approximately 11,000 athletes that will reach Tokyo will be women, up from 45.6 percent at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games and 44.2 percent at the 2012 London Olympics. (The IOC does not have data on the number of non-binary athletes in these sports.)

Many countries attribute the move to sweeping policy changes, increased funding, and the promotion of female athletes in the mainstream media. But for other countries, the equality is far from over: men enjoy far more wealth, news coverage and opportunities than their female counterparts.

Even though profits are made on the playing field, the make-up of the heavily male IOC lags behind. Women make up 33.3 percent of its executive board; And 37.5 percent of the committee members are women.

In recent months the organization has wrestled with a series of gender-related mistakes on the public stage. recently on Wednesday John Coates, an IOC vice president, was a Tense exchange with Anastasia Palaszczuk, Prime Minister of Queensland, Australia. He orders her to attend the opening ceremony, despite her saying that she will not do so.

“You’re going to the opening ceremony,” he said sternly, crossing his arms.

While the committee commended an initiative to promote gender equality, Olympic athletes who are new mothers have complained about COVID-related restrictions in Tokyo preventing them from bringing their children to the Games. Yes, there is a challenge for them. taking care of your little ones.

The IOC reversed its decision in late June, allowing nursing mothers To bring your kids. Some athletes, including Spanish swimmers ona carbonell, said the restrictions made housing impractical.

Was the chairman of the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee Took place After this year he publicly suggested that women talk too much in meetings. In March, creative director for the opening ceremony stepped down After it was discovered that he had made derogatory remarks about the physical appearance of Naomi Watanabe, a plus-size fashion designer.

Nevertheless, progress in gender representation of athletes has been steady, if uneven.

“When you have policies and resources dedicated to girls and women in sport, you get equal numbers and high performance,” said Nicole M. Lavoie, director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the university. of Minnesota. “Obviously, many countries have found it very challenging.”

Consider the starting point.

IOC founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin barred women from competing in the inaugural Games of 1896. In 1900, 22 women were welcomed to compete in five women’s sports – among them croquet – while 975 men competed in everything from athletics to rowing.

Women made up no more than 10 percent of participants until 1952; Since then this ratio has collapsed. Women were not allowed to compete in every sport until 2012, and not until 2014. IOC’s planning agenda Working “to achieve 50 percent female participation in the Olympic Games”.

Ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, several countries, including the United States, Australia, Britain, Canada and China, announced team lineups that featured more women than men.

For Team USA, Title IX, the 1972 law that provided girls with equal opportunities in high school and college sports, has propelled women to a higher level at a pace that few countries match.

But this is the first Summer Olympics in which Britain has 201,175 more female athletes than men.

“The United Kingdom does not have a comparable law regarding sport, so there is still a significant gap between the opportunities for boys and men and the opportunities for girls and women in sport,” said Dr Heather Dichter, a D in Leicester, England Associate Professor of Sports History at Montfort University. “Recently, funding has been linked to success.”

He said that it is a game of chicken and egg when it comes to providing adequate resources for women’s sport. Some nations fund their athletes and teams based on past success, which is challenging to achieve without funding. The series continues.

“So many countries fight this battle: do we fund elite athletes, or do we fund grassroots organizations?” Dr Dichter said. Supporting elite athletes can lead to more Olympians; Funding for more grassroots organizations could potentially increase the pool of elite athletes. Of course, it’s rare to fund both.

“If a country has not provided resources for a sport,” Dr. “It’s hard enough to ever qualify,” Dichter said.

Numbers aside, men still hold an advantage in the competition for the most advantageous slot for their races, matches and television time.

Yet the organizing committee keeps on making symbolic gestures pointing to the similarities.

For the first time, the IOC has encouraged each participating country to nominate one male and one female flag bearer at the opening ceremony. For some, such as China and Mongolia, this means a woman will be the flag bearer for the first time.

These games will also include the beginning of new games: baseball, softball, karate, skateboarding, sports climbing and surfing. They all feature men’s and women’s competitions, funneling new types of athletic talent to the Olympics. More mixed-gender events – 18 in total – will be held with the highest profile in the track and swimming relay. There will also be mixed triathlon relay, mixed doubles events in table tennis and mixed events in judo. archery and shooting.

Nevertheless, some incidents continue to exclude women. Olympic Decathlon – A series of 10 track and field events – for men only. Jordan Gray, the American record holder in the women’s decathlon in world track, is leading a campaign to add the event to the Games in time for 2024. 50 kilometer race walk Also offered as an Olympic event for men only.

Despite all this, the biggest figures in sports may be women. there are two of them Katie Ledecky and Simone Biles, returning medalist and fan favorite.

“The punchline here is that you see women in some countries – mostly white, Western countries – actually outperform their male peers, despite the fact that they have less resources, less support, less viability, less whatever. Got it too,” Lavoie said.

“Despite this, they are still outperforming men,” she said, pointing to the enduring star power of female athletes like Biles. “It’s kind of wonderful.”

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