Women’s sport has had a pretty tough time pulling in viewers over the years. Not because people don’t tune in but mainly because it’s almost impossible to view. In the run up to London 2012, it was revealed that females in the UK get little over 5% of media coverage and 0.5% of commercial sponsorship in leading sports. I mean come on, surely Coca-Cola can fork out a bit more than that for our sporting females.
Clearly, they just don’t want to.
Back in the days of Beijing 2008, American sports coverage gave male athletes more than three-fifths of airtime. I can only hope that this year, female sporting coverage in the USA equaled at least their gold medal haul at London 2012.
Professor James Angelini also conducted a now infamous Beijing Olympic study proving that commentators were more male biased, praising a male athlete’s sporting ability after a win but claiming a female winner had been lucky. When a female athlete lost, her dedication and ability were likely to be called into question, whereas a failing male athlete would often be classed as unlucky. These spontaneous sporting observations portray only a shade of the gender discrimination that is rife within most sports.
However, London 2012 promised something different and was heralded: “The Women’s Games.”
We cannot overlook the positive steps that were made this year: for the first time in Olympic history, female athletes represented the Islamic nations of Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar, which meant that every national team included at least one female athlete. Boxing and Taikwando were also finally opened to female athletes and women could compete in all 26 sports on offer.
The pressure was really on for the female athletes this year; they absolutely had to perform. But there is no doubt about it; these women brought it.
When it came to the largest teams at London 2012, females out-repped the male athletes and also bagged more gold medals, too. The first athlete to qualify for Team GB was open-water swimmer Keri-Ann Payne and the first GB silver and gold medals came from female athletes: Lizzie Armistead, Heather Stanning and Helen Glover. The GB girls smashed personal records, took home countless (…24) medals and knockouts Nicola Adams and Jade Jones proved that women had been kept out of the Battle for Gold for far too long.
How’s that for a bit of Girl Power?
But was London 2012 really any better than the Beijing Games at achieving gender equality? Yes, women could compete in every sport. However, only 132 medals were available for women in comparison to 162 available for men. The transportation of female football and basketball stars from Japan and Australia also raised eyebrows, as male athletes were bumped up to business class, while females bagged only economy seats. Come off it guys, is one Olympic bottom really more deserving of business class than another?
While weightlifter Zoe Smith was receiving Twitter abuse after claims she looked too “manly”, Turkish columnist Yuksel Aytug stated that the Olympics would destroy womanhood and that female Olympians should receive extra points for how feminine they look.
Sorry, I just gagged a bit.
Yes, of course it’s great that females were reppin’ in every national team. However, the IOC did have to threaten some Islamic nations with entire team disqualifications if female athletes were not present to achieve this. This clearly depicts the ever-present resentment towards females in sports. Mate, it’s not like you’re doing them the favour, they’re the ones bringing the medals back making you look good.
To me it seems that London 2012 was a mixed bag when it came to gender issues. Don’t get me wrong; the seeds of change have definitely been planted, maybe even watered and pruned a bit. But underlying currents of gender inequality will always try to fight back to the surface.
I believe we are now living in an age where token female athletes will never be enough and I’m pretty optimistic about the future for women at Rio 2016. With such a great example this year, I’m certain even more women will want to #GoforGold in four years time.