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London milestone in gender equality

London milestone in gender equality

Tue June 26, 2012 6:11pm

WE'VE come a long way, baby.

The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was a man of his times, an out-and-proud male chauvinist who believed that the place of women at the Games was to provide “applause” for the “solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism”.

“When it comes to public sports competitions, women's participation should be absolutely prohibited," the Frenchman said in 1910, ten years after women had made their Olympic debut at the 1900 Games in Paris.

But de Coubertin still regarded female sports competition as “impractical, uninteresting, ungainly and, I do not hesitate to add, improper".

So it’s not surprising that it’s taken more than a century for the Olympic Games to approach gender equality.

However it now appears that the London Games will take a significant step in this journey, as the first Olympics in which every country that attends will be represented by at least one female athlete.

The Saudi Arabian Embassy announced at the weekend that its national Olympic Committee would “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify” for the London Games.

The strict Muslim nation was the last bastion of male-only teams. The two other nations that failed to send a woman to the Beijing Olympics four years ago, Qatar and Brunei, had already announced they would accede to the International Olympic Committee’s desire to stamp out sexual discrimination among from its member nations.

Qatar, which had hoped to host the 2020 Olympics, is expected to send three women to London, a swimmer, a sprinter and a shooter, while Brunei’s likely female representative is 400m hurdler Maziah Mahusin.

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