Ground Report | New Delhi: TIMELINE: Women participation in the Olympics; In the first modern Olympic Games, held in Athens in 1896, there was not a single female competitor. When the 2020 Games begin in Tokyo this month, nearly half of the athletes competing will be women.
Tokyo is a “turning point” for the elite international sporting event as the most gender-equal Olympics in the history of the Games, organizers said, adding that about 49% of the 11,090 athletes are women.
In little more than a century, women have gradually gained spaces in the Olympic Games, since the Paris 1900 edition where 22 ladies participated to the historic 46% during the competitions that were held in London 2012.
The London Games were known as the “Women’s Games” due to the record of female participation and because it was the first time they competed in all categories, the number of athletes reached 10,523, of which 5,864 were men and 4,659 women, that is, 46%.
The milestone comes as the 2020 Games sparked a conversation about the needs of mothers in particular, about pregnancy, breastfeeding and child care, and as scandals linked to the abuse and harassment of female athletes The sport continues to influence globally.
In the years leading up to the Tokyo Olympics – which, after a year’s delay due to the coronavirus pandemic, runs from Friday to August 8 – the International Olympic Committee is working to achieve greater gender equality in terms of athlete quotas and event programming.
Equality in the sports available is one thing, but in many countries, women do not have equal rights to participate in sports and the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games. Before the 2012 Olympics in London, three Muslim countries had never sent a female athlete before Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. However, they all succumbed to the pressure of the IOC and sent the women athletes to London. Now every National Olympic Committee has sent women to the Olympic Games, a small step. (TIMELINE: Women participation in the Olympics)
TIMELINE: Women participation in the Olympics
- At the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, no women competed, as de Coubertin felt their inclusion would be “impractical, uninteresting, involuntary and wrong.”
- Women competed for the first time in the 1900 Paris Games. Women were allowed to compete in lawn tennis and golf, although there were three French women competing in croquet and at least one female sailor as part of the mixed contingent. It is generally believed that the first woman to win an Olympic event was Charlotte Cooper of England, who won the tennis singles title, although Swiss sailor Helen de Portales had previously won gold as part of a team in sailing.
- Here are the first women competitors in the Modern Olympic Games of 1900, in chronological order:
- May 22 – Helen de Pourtales, Switzerland (Yachting)
- May 31 – Elvira Guerra, France (Equestrian). There may have been another woman also competing in the equestrian events.
- Jun 28 – Mme Ohnier, Madame Depres, and Mme Filleaul Brohy, France (Croquet)
- July 11 – winner Charlotte Cooper, Great Britain (Tennis) plus other female competitors.
- Oct 3 – winner Margaret Abbott, USA (Golf) plus other female competitors.
- Women competed in swimming events for the first time in 1912, but none of them were from the US, which did not allow its female athletes to compete without long skirts. The first women’s swimming gold medal was won by Australian Sarah ‘Fanny’ Durack, who won the 100 m freestyle in 1912.
- In 1928, women competed in track and field events for the first time. The first woman to win an Olympic gold medal in track and field was Poland’s Halina Konopka, when she broke her own world record with a throw of 39.62 meters to win the discus in Amsterdam in 1928. In the 800 m track event, it was claimed that many had fallen. At the end of the race (which has been disputed), the event was banned until 1960.
- Women’s shooting events were first included in the Olympics in 1984. There were three events, three position rifle, air rifle and sport pistol.
- The first Arab Muslim woman to claim an Olympic gold medal was Nawal El Mutawakel of Morocco, when she won the women’s 400m hurdles at LA 1984.
- In 1996, a women’s only sport was introduced – softball (softball is no longer part of the Olympic programme).
- The 2000 Olympics marked the first time women were allowed to compete in the Olympics in weightlifting.
- A women’s wrestling competition was introduced in 2004. Women compete in freestyle wrestling, but not Greco-Roman.
- There are only two Olympic Games where men and women compete directly against each other; Horse riding and sailing, although in sailing it is now only a phenomenon. There have been mixed doubles events in tennis (in the early games and since 2012) and badminton (since 1996).
- Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia sent all female participants to the London 2012 Olympic Games, meaning that now every National Olympic Committee has sent women to the Olympic Games.
- With the inclusion of women’s boxing at the 2012 London Games, men and women are competing in all Olympic sports. However, there are still two sports disciplines that are only for women: synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics.
- In cycling in 2012, for the first time, men and women competed in an equal number of events in all cycling disciplines. However, the distance for women is shorter for some events.
- At Rio 2016, 44% of medals were awarded in the women’s events, the highest ever. In 1984, this figure was just over 25%.
- In the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, about 49 percent of the athletes participating are women, (as per the IOC quota allocation). For the first time, all 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) must have at least one female and one male athlete on their respective Olympic teams. All 206 NOC and IOC Refugee Olympic Teams will be encouraged by one female and one male athlete to wave their flag at the opening ceremony.