As the athletes leave London, the female team members are basking in unparrelled glory as they took the Olympics by storm. The female athletes won more gold medals in the Chinese and America teams than the men and for Team GB they won about half the gold haulage.
The number of women entering rose to 44% of the total competitors and it was a big step towards equal participation at the Olympics. Another milestone in the battle for sexual equality was the women from the Islam countries like Qatar Saudi Arabia and Brunei entering for the first time despite criticism from their countries. And this Olympics was the first one in which women could compete in any sport. So women boxers entered for the first time with Britain’s Nicola Adams taking gold.
It’s been a huge step forward for women’s sports in general which is often underfunded and underrepresented in comparison to men’s sports. A UK study by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found women’s sports get 0.5% of commercial sports sponsorship, 5% of media coverage, and 43% of teenage girls say they do not have female sporting role models.
The London Olympics will hopefully start to change that, “Women athletes have to create their own brand, find their voice, and stay connected with the thousands of fans they now have,” said Mendoza, past president of the US-based Women’s Sports Foundation.
“With social media you don’t have to rely on the major media outlets any more. This is the time for women athletes to shine.”
It’s also means the media spotlight should begin to shine of the performances and move away from the ‘glamour’ aspect of women’s sport with more focus on their athletic abilities.”
Former British Olympian Denise Lewis, who won gold in the heptathlon at Sydney 2000, said it was up to each athlete to decide how they wanted to portray themselves publicly.
She said it was harder for women to grab headlines and make a career from their sport so playing the glamour card could help them get attention but only if they succeeded in their sport first.
“I see nothing wrong with showing that athletes bodies can be beautiful, strong and feminine,” Lewis, who has become a television personality, told Reuters. “We need positive role models to encourage more girls into sport and showing women athletes can be strong and feminine can help.”
As the London Olympics come to a close, the overwhelming view was that women had fuelled the success of 2012 Games.
Sebastian Coe, chairman of London organising committee LOCOG, said some of the big, high profile moments at London 2012 focused on women, such as the involvement of athletes from Saudi Arabia where Muslim clerics decry women’s sport as immodest.
“I think we have really moved this agenda on in a big way in London,” Coe told reporters.
It’s also means the media spotlight should begin to shine of the performances and move away from the ‘glamour’ aspect of women’s sport with more focus on their athletic abilities. One thing that comes out of it, is how inspiring these women are as role models for todays young women. These atheletes are dedicated, focussed, fit, toned and healthy and it’s a world away from the self obsessed celebrity images focussing on age, weight and beauty that dominate the gossip and fashion mags.
Overall there was a massive feel good factor for the London Olympics with stunning opening and closing ceremonies showcasing Britain in a spirited, uplifting way. And hopefully the London Olympics has moved women’s sport forward in a positive and who knows we may see Stephanie Gilmore surfing in the Olympics yet!