Over the past century, women have transformed their involvement in sport and society – change that is visible today in the 2012 London Olympics. For the first time in Olympic history, the United States, Russia, Canada and China sent more female athletes than male to the games. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei all sent female athletes, making the 2012 London Olympics the first games that every country participating has had female competitors. Today, forty percent of the approximately 10,500 athletes competing in the Olympics are women. The equitable participation of women in sport has come a long way since the 1908 London Olympic Games but there is still a ways to go as many women internationally face discrimination and marginalization in sport.
However, the success of female athletes in the 2012 Olympics has set a new precedent for the involvement of women in international sport. These female athletes have inspired the world with their performances and serve as powerful role models for women everywhere. With their incredible athletic achievements this year, the women of the Olympics have sent a strong message: We are here to stay, to compete, to win.
Donna Lopiano, President and Founder of Sports Management Resources and Former Chief Executive Officer of the Women’s Sports Foundation provides some of her thoughts on the transformation of sport in society since the 1908 Olympic Games for Girls Gotta Run Foundation readers. Thank you for your thoughts Donna!
“Fun during these Olympic Games to reflect on the importance of the media and sport to continuing progress on defeating race, gender and disability discrimination. We know how long social change takes, but there is little disagreement that instant communication of the success of individuals pushes things along just a little bit faster -- generating public education ripples that change the minds of the masses. Ultimately, when we are able to open the minds of large numbers of decision-makers and parents, it is more likely that success will happen.
We still haven't seen anything yet with regard to where the performances of women who are given equal opportunity will go, but when technology starts showing women's performances exceeding men's (as comparing men's and women's gymnastics vaults), stereotypes that hold us back simply shatter and we realize how discrimination has kept the lid on the ability of women to perform. From Pistorious' persistence to run against athletes without disabilities to the pressure the IOC placed on Saudi Arabia and Qatar and all countries to include females in their delegations to the first African-American to win the women's gymnastics all-around title and finally to the images of women participating in boxing, wrestling, weight lifting and other traditionally male sports, media coverage of the Olympics is advancing public education about discrimination. We all are able to move beyond the initial change stages of anger or resistance to acceptance and celebration.
As every teacher knows, key to student understanding is planting an unforgettable image or concept in the mind of the learner...now possible at regular speed, in slow motion, super slow motion, and stop action motion analysis. Kudos to the media -- kudos to technology -- kudos to those athletes who have overcome discrimination -- and special kudos to every parent, coach and supporter who never doubted the right of a child to pursue his or her dreams and who acted to make it possible.” - Donna Lopiano