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No gender equality on the way to the Games

The Olympics have come a long way, but Japan and Australia still treat their women athletes differently from the men.
Last modified: 8 Aug 2012 15:53
Despite being more successful than the men's team, Australia's women basketball team flies economy class [Reuters]

A good and bad day for gender equality at the Olympic Games.

On the one hand, women's boxing makes its Olympic debut on Wednesday. On the other, there's a stink brewing over the discriminatory travel arrangements of some teams heading to London.

I'll explain, but first bare this in mind: Olympic gender equality efforts have taken great leaps forward in recent years. At the opening ceremony of these Games, IOC president Jacques Rogge, declared that London 2012 was "a major boost for gender equality".

On the face of it, quite true.

Never before in the history of the modern Olympics has every single competing nation sent at least one woman athlete to the Games. For the first time Qatar, Brunei even Saudi Arabia have women in their teams.

Of the 10,500 athletes taking part in London, 45 per cent are women, up from 25 per cent at the Barcelona Games in 1992.

Yup, big, winning strides forward.

Now, consider this: Japan and Australia apparently prefer to fly their women athletes to the Games in economy class, while the men get to turn left at the door to relax in the comfort of business class.

This astonishing arrangement applies to Japan's footballers and Australia's basketball teams, despite the fact that the Japanese women footballers are the current World Cup champions. The Australian women’s basketball team is ranked number two in the world, having won silver medals in the last three Games, while the men haven't won a thing!

Outraged? You're not alone. Seventeen thousand people have signed an online petition demanding things be put right.

The result? The Japanese have graciously suggested their football women may get an upgrade on the way home (no promises), and the Australians have offered to launch an enquiry.

Gender equality, indeed.