Spain at the opening of the games. (Photo: ODD ANDERSEN via . via .)
Equality, but not much. This is how the Tokyo 2021 Olympic Games could be described, whose opening ceremony took place this Friday in the capital of Japan. “A milestone in gender equality on and off the pitch,” the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on March 8 about this year’s event. And well, the intent is there.
The percentage of female athletes has risen to 49% compared to 45% in 2016, with almost total parity between men and women, a very important step. But this figure does not mean that equality has completely permeated Tokyo, just as it did not reach Rio de Janeiro. This parity will occur only on the track and will be mathematically the same in the Paris games of 2024.
But yes, although slower than in other areas, gender equality has crept into the Olympic Village. The 207 teams participating include male and female athletes for the first time, and most have accepted the IOC’s invitation to parade at the opening ceremony this Friday with two flag bearers. But not all. United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Indonesia, Eritrea, Oman, Gabon, Cambodia, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Djibouti, Tajikistan, Bermuda, Mali, Mauritius or Libya have been some of the teams they only had one male flag bearer.
Some other improvements
There are some other improvements, how could it be otherwise before social advancement in equality. The mixed events are only 18, but this is nine more than in Rio 2016, to encourage delegations to include more women in their delegations.
The competition calendar has also been modified so that the grand finals have the same visibility (preferential television hours, weekend days …) for men and women.
The president of the organizing committee of the games is a woman for the second time in history a woman: Seiko Hashimoto. The first was in Athens 2004, with Gianna Angelopoulos. After the inauguration of Hashimoto, 12 new leaders were appointed and it went from 7 to 19, among a total of 45. Of course: the arrival of Hashimoto also has its former: he replaced Yoshiro Mori after his dismissal due to the scandal that she generated with misogynistic comments that she uttered precisely at a meeting in which measures to increase the presence of women on the board of the organizing committee were being debated.
Seiko Hashimoto (Photo: Valery Sharifulin via .)
These small advances also reach the Paralympic Games, where female participation in Tokyo is expected to be 40.5%. There is ample room for improvement but it represents an 18.7% increase in less than a decade, since London 2012.
First trans participant
The event will also be remembered for the participation of Laurel Hubbard, a New Zealand weightlifter who becomes the first trans woman to be part of the Olympic event. At 43, he will compete in the +87 kg category.
Despite the fact that there has been reluctance among some groups about the admission of the trans athlete, the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach, has assured that Hubbard has been classified according to the regulations, although he has warned that this will be “revised to clarify some guidelines ”.
But not everything is so beautiful
But, despite the improvements, the truth is that, for now, the Olympic family still has many gaps. One of them is in the group of trainers, who represent only around 10% of the accredited body, as reported by ..
These problems also occur in the positions of the IOC itself, in whose assembly only 37.5% are women. In the Executive Committee they are 33.3%. And in their different commissions they account for 47.8%, although many of them repeat in various groups.
We go down to the court
Other (not so) details that must be mentioned are at the level of the competition: rhythmic gymnastics and artistic swimming are the only two disciplines of the Olympic program exclusively for women. And the Greco-Roman wrestling is the only one for men only.
In sailing there is a male class more than female, in boxing there are eight pesos for men and only five for women, in athletics they win the men’s events only for the 50 km march and in soccer the men’s tournament admits 16 teams and the women’s only to 12.
Sexist coverage in the media
In the last Olympic events, the coverage that exists from some media has been harshly criticized. We will have to wait until the end of the games to see if this has changed. But for now, the IOC and UN Women have launched a guide to promote “stereotype-free sports information”.
“Its main objective is to contribute to the development of journalist coverage of sports with a gender perspective and integrate this perspective to carry out fairer, more egalitarian and more equitable coverage with respect to women”, explained Lisa Solmirano, coordinator of the program UN Women who produced the guide. According to her, a very common mistake when covering sports practiced by women is “mentioning aspects that are beyond sports.”
“There are comments related to sexual orientation or physicality. They are also infantilized and represented as “the girls”, he assured. “A classic is, to a woman who stands out in some sport, mention her as: ‘La Messi de …’. They define it in relation to a man, a man “, he adds.” It is important to start balancing the space that is given to both women’s and men’s sports, it is not true that women’s sports do not sell. And on the other hand, to have more women on journalists’ staff as a way of balancing the scale and representation ”, he stated.
However, Solmirano has not stopped recognizing that there is a process of “transformation” and more and more female journalists covering sports. “There are also more and more media interested in including a gender perspective, in having editors or in reviewing certain habitual practices that were sexist or celebrated macho or misogynistic expressions.”
An uneven base: they combine sport and care
For this communication expert, it is important that those who practice journalism and those who consume sports information know that women start from “a base that is already unequal in relation to their possibilities of participation in sports, training and dedication.”
You mentioned, for example, that many women have to combine sports practice with caring tasks. “In proportion to the possibilities and opportunities, women already start out with inferior conditions, without taking into account that many have less access to prizes, scholarships and less possibilities of reaching the training standards that men have because the equipment usually go for men’s sports ”, he says. In this sense, the Spanish swimmer Ona Carbonell made a very harsh criticism a few days ago, who has seen her chances of reconciling with her almost one-year-old son impossible.
“You have to try to better contextualize the news. Try to avoid sexist comments or comments outside of sports. An athlete must be valued for her possibilities or for her sporting achievements, not in relation to the male “, said Solmirano, who also points out that many girls stop practicing sports when they reach adolescence and that” limits them a lot of aspects ”.
“It fundamentally limits their possibilities to empower themselves and to be able to be more autonomous, to connect with their leadership conditions and also defend their rights,” he concluded. So every four years, awareness creeps into this event that has historically been dominated by men.
This article originally appeared on The HuffPost and has been updated.