Tokyo Olympics; The first gender-equal games, still lack opportunities for women

The International Olympic Committee has called the Tokyo Olympics the most gender-equal games of all time, with women comprising a record-breaking 49 percent of participants.

The IOC says it took deliberate action to make sure this year’s Games constitute a “landmark in gender equality”, both on and off the field of play.

By adding 18 new events and establishing equal numbers of spots for men and women in every sport except baseball and softball, the IOC was able to reach this goal. There is also a higher number of mixed-gender competitions.

Several countries, like Australia, Britain, Canada, and China, have sent teams to Tokyo with more women than men. Team selection is based on an athlete’s prior achievements and chances to win a medal. From Canada, women dominated the medal haul in the first week of competition, taking 13 medals before a male athlete made it to the podium.

But aside from increasing the opportunity for women to compete at the Olympics, analysts say discrimination remains rife.

Analysts on Gender Equality

When the first modern Olympics was held in 1896 in Athens, Greece, women were deliberately barred from taking part.

  • In this year’s Olympics, women’s bodies are still heavily policed in sport and they have been monitored for the same. An example of such was for Paralympian Olivia Breen. She was recently told by the International Paralympic Committee that her uniform was too revealing.
  • There was a fine for Norwegian beach handball team for wearing shorts instead of the typical bikini uniform that has sparked a global conversation about the sexualization of female athletes.
  • Moreover, German gymnastics team wore full-body unitards instead of the usual high-cut leotards and it was said in their own statement to protest the sexualization of their sport.

Apart from this, analysts say that women have to fight for their right to participate in the Games after giving birth and fight to bring the babies they were breastfeeding to the Games.

Under pressure from athletes such as French rower Alice Milliat who even launched a separate Olympics for women, the IOC began including more and more female events. Still, for years, women were “confined to more aesthetic events” or “even play and dance routines” such as swimming, figure skating, and fencing.

“The idea around this was that it was more suitable to female biology and less threatening to dominant images of femininity around the time,” says Matthews. “Women weren’t expected to run too far because they might sweat and we don’t want them sweating. They might not throw things as far because we don’t want them to damage their internal organs.”

Read also: Tokyo Olympics: The mental health of athletes also matters…

It was only in 2012 that the global sporting body allowed women to compete in all sports on the Olympic program. It was only in 2014 that it is committed to gender parity at the Games.

Research shows us that having gender diversity in organizations is not only a moral imperative, but also enables better thinking and problem-solving, greater innovation, and better performance.

When it comes to sport organizations, recent research has shown that having women on boards provides better financial performance too.

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