USC (US) / U. TORONTO (CAN) — The 2012 Olympic Games in London was the first time all participating nations allowed women to compete, but there were still 1,233 more male athletes and 30 more medal events exclusively for men.
A new report shows that in what was billed as the “Women’s Olympics,” international rules severely limited the number of female competitors who were allowed to compete in 11 of 26 sports.
For example, in boxing, as many as 250 male boxers were allowed to compete but the number of female competitors was capped at 36. In water polo, up to 156 men could compete as compared to 104 women. Judo allowed for up to 221 male competitors and 145 female competitors.
In men’s racewalking, canoe/kayak, rowing, shooting, boxing, and wrestling there was no matching event for women.
“The perceptions of equality that led to London being called ‘the Women’s Olympics’ by some commentators are inaccurate,” says Michele K. Donnelly, a post-doctoral fellow in sociology at University of Southern California.
“The focus is almost always on medal counts and success stories, but it’s important to point out that the experience of men and women athletes is still substantially different.
“Following the celebration associated with women’s involvement in all sports for the first time at the London 2012 Olympics, it is now time for those sports to more equitably represent men and women competitors.”
The authors credit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the progress to date, especially in the last 15 years, but they argue that the organization can still do more.
“The IOC is ideally located to be the moral leader in taking these final steps towards gender equality and to persuade the international federations that only gender equal events will be permitted at the Games,” says Peter Donnelly, director of the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto.
“We have called on the IOC, as the gatekeepers of the Olympics, to make a final commitment to gender equality at the Games in terms of an equal number of events for men and women, and near equivalence in the number of participants.”
The report was co-authored by researchers at USC and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Sport Policy Studies.