Gender Equality: The Olympics

I am sure that many of us, over the past few weeks, have been glued to our TVs watching the Olympics in Tokyo. Although somewhat controversial, these games offered a much-needed distraction from current world issues and have been a joy to watch.

These games have made huge steps towards gender equality and the IOC stated that “Tokyo 2020 was predicted to be the most gender equal yet with female participation.” Among the athletes at the Olympics, 49% were women, which is the highest number in history. They included brand new sports such as baseball, skateboarding, climbing, and surfing and new mixed gender events such as a swimming relay, triathlon relay, table tennis, judo archery and shooting. There were also more events for women such as the 1,500m freestyle swimming event which used to only be for men. Many countries, such as China, had both a man and a woman as flag bearers in the opening ceremony for the first time.

The organizing committee also reversed an early decision which barred an athlete from bringing her three-month-old daughter to Tokyo. Making the games more inclusive for mothers. The committee also requested that every country must have at least one female and one male athlete in their respective Olympic teams. They are also working actively with UN-Women on the advancement of gender equality, however, women still only make up 33.3%of their executive board, and 37.5% of their committee members.

Despite these positive steps, women continued to face discrimination and much more work needs to be done to eradicate gender equality within the Olympics. For example An San’s was criticised for her short hairstyle and attacked on social media, despite the fact she had just won her third gold medal. Gong Lijiao who won a gold medal in shotput for China, was asked about her appearance and her marriage plans. There has also been some controversy around the inclusion of an athlete who is accused of sexual assault against other athletes, when Sha’Carri Richardson was disqualified for a positive marijuana test which is legal in various states across America. All these factors clearly show that although progress has been made, much more work needs to be done to ensure true equality in at the olympics.

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