Olympics Opens the Door for Women
Published on February 19th, 2018
Olympic Agenda 2020 was formalized in December 2014, and it was in this document from the International Olympic Committee which detailed 40 recommendations to direct the future of the Olympic Movement. The mission was to protect the uniqueness of the Games and strengthen Olympic values in society.
Recommendation #11 was to foster gender equality:
1. The IOC to work with the International Federations to achieve 50 per cent female participation in the Olympic Games and to stimulate women’s participation and involvement in sport by creating more participation opportunities at the Olympic Games.
2. The IOC to encourage the inclusion of mixed-gender team events.
The term ‘recommendation’ was a nicety as the bigger truth was in how each international sports federation needed to toe this directive or risk the wrath of the IOC.
World Sailing learned this lesson, as when the timeline was too short to overhaul the Sailing events to have equal medals for men and women for Tokyo 2020, and only able to assure equal participation, the IOC reduced the total participation quota from 380 athletes at Rio 2016 to 350 athletes at Tokyo 2020.
For the Paris 2024 Olympics, Sailing will have equal medals for men and women. While this level of parity may not be consistent with current participation in the sport, the IOC sees that as Sailing’s problem, not theirs.
Annie Gardner sees this as an opportunity for Sailing which will open doors for women across the planet. Here is her report:
Up until the 80’s, the number of women who competed in Sailing at the Olympics was minuscule and those with medals even smaller. At that time there were only “open” classes meaning women could compete against men, or they could team together.
The question being tossed around was should there be a separate class. The answer was obvious, and finally at the Seoul 1988 Olympics, there was a separate women’s event, the 470, in which Allison Jolly and Lynn Jewell won gold for USA.
But what most people don’t know is that in 1984 there was an Olympic Sailing Exhibition with a separate women’s class.
Think Beach Volleyball, Snowboarding, and other sports outside the box but extremely popular. Worthy of testing for including in the Games but not counted in the overall official medal count.
That was the opportunity given to Sailing when the competition included a triathlon of slalom, freestyle, and long distance racing to capture the gamut of what windsurfing embodies. Not just triangle racing that was/is boring to watch unless you are an avid racer. Sound familiar?
So it was at the Los Angles 1984 Games when there was a separate women’s Sailing event for the first time in the history of the Olympics. And at 25 years old, I was privileged to represent my country, my sport, and women who love to compete.
To medal and stand on the podium was thrilling for so many reasons, but the bonus was in how some of the girls watching from the beach went on to win their own Sailing medals in years to come when they finally added windsurfing as an official sport for women in 1992.
Creating equal opportunities does get more women out there!