Sonali Prasad examines the ongoing fight for gender equality in sport.
When Great Britain’s Nicola Adams landed her final punch to win the first ever Olympic gold medal in women’s boxing at the London 2012 Olympic Games, it was a significant moment not only for the then 29-year-old, but also for many girls and young women across the globe. The inclusion of women’s boxing on the programme for London meant that, for the first time in the history of the modern Olympic Games, women were able to compete in every sport on the Olympic roster.
Two years later, at the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, another milestone was reached when the IOC included a women’s ski jumping event for the first time. These were the latest in a long list of gender equality breakthroughs at the Games over the last century, with women’s participation on the Olympic stage growing steadily thanks to the continuous efforts of the IOC, in cooperation with International Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs). When women first took part in the Olympic Games – in Paris in 1900 – just 22 women competed out of a total of 997 athletes. Female participation has increased steadily since then. The Nanjing Youth Olympic Games set a new record with a 49 per cent women athletes’ participation level , a giant step that shows that parity is very close. The percentages of women Olympians at the London Games and Sochi Games – 44 per cent and over 40 per cent respectively – are also promising and the result of determined work over more than a century as the world moves to recognise the importance of providing sport to all. Over the years, the success of legendary female athletes at the Olympic Games – such as Babe Didrikson, Sonja Henie, Nadia Comaneci and Jackie Joyner-Kersee – have provided inspirational stories for women all over the globe, while the likes of Nawal El Moutawakel have helped break down barriers for girls across the world.
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