Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

Women in Olympics: Are Women Free to Participate in the Olympics?

The ancient Olympic Games or Olympiad began over 2,700 years ago in Greece (Olympics 2009). At that time the Olympiad organization did not allow the married women to enter into the stadium and the married women who tried to enter were killed, however young unmarried women and prostitutes were allowed into the stadium to select their future husbands from the athletes because there were only men athletes in the stadium (Olympicwomen, 2008). The modern Olympic Games started since 1896, and held every fourth years, but at that time they did not allow women to participate in the games (Olympicwomen, 2008). However, there was an ‘unofficial competitor’, who was a Greek woman named Stamati Revithi, competed in men’s marathon without the permission from the authority of Olympics and has known as ‘Melpomene’ and considered as a disaster of Greek (Olympicwomen, 2008). In 1900 the Olympic committee launched games for women; there were only ‘Croquet and Golf ‘games which happened away from the Olympic stadium (Olympicwomen, 2008).

One of the principals of the International Olympic Committee (IOC )is quoted in here "Any form of discrimination regarding to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, and gender or otherwise, is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement" (Wallechinsky, 2008 Jul 29). Conversely, the purpose of this article is to explain the past and present participation of Muslim women in the Olympics, to improve their participation in the Olympic Games, and explore the problems that the women are facing in the Olympics Games. Though women have gotten the chance to compete in the Olympic Games and have improved them in sports and events in the Olympic Games, there are still some problems to women by gender wise because of religious beliefs in some countries, and there are suspicious on well performed women in the Olympics Games.

There have been lots of improvements in women participation through years in the Olympic Games for women. There were improvements in a number of countries which allowed women athletes to the Olympic Games. In 1900, women started to participate in the modern Olympic Games and there were women participants from five countries such as USA, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, and Bohemia (Olympicwomen, 2008). In 1956, there were women participants from 39 countries, and in 2000, there were 199 countries (Olympicwomen, 2008). The number of women participants in the Olympic Games has been increasing through years. There were 19 women in the 1900 Olympic Games, in 1956 there were 384 women participants, and in 2000 there were 4069 women participants (Olympicwomen, 2008). The above statistics about women participants in the Olympic Games have been increasing, and many countries representations show interests of women in participating in the Olympic Games. There have been lots of improvements in the number of women sports and events activities. In 1900, there were two sports such as Croquet and Golf and five events for women. In 1956 there were six sports and 26 events and, in 2000 there were 28 sports for women and 132 events for the women participants, but women participated in 25 sports in the Olympic Games (Olympicwomen, 2008).
Even though there have been lots of steps taken in women involvement in the Olympics, some Islamic countries such as, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei have discriminated women and allowing only men to participate in the Olympic Games (Wallechinsky, 2008). Though the world wide modern Olympic Games started 114 years ago, some Islamic countries allowed women to participate only after 100 years. In 2008 United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman allowed women to participate in the Olympic Games, while the men athletes from those countries started to participate six times earlier (Wallechinsky, 2008). In addition, Afghanistan and Kuwait allowed women participants to the Olympics in 2004; and Iran allowed women to participate in 1964 (Wallechinsky, 2008). There are lots of limitations for women athletes in the Olympic Games who are from Islamic countries. Muslim women are asked or forced to cover most of their body parts as their religious beliefs. For example, Iranian women have limited sports activities because of the requirement of covering most of their body parts (Wallechinsky, 2008).

The women athletes who participate in the Olympic Games are facing problems to ensure their gender identity to the Olympic community from the past. From 1960 the women athletes are asked to confirm their gender as females because Soviet Union and other communist countries had phony female athletes in the Olympics (Thomas, 2008). Before 1968 women athletes are asked to parade nude in front of doctors to confirm their femaleness (Thomas, 2008). However, this test never pictured the men who pretend like women because there are lots of genetic disorders in women, who are having men gene (Thomas, 2008). There was a case of gender identity questioning towards a woman athlete after her gold medal in 2008 Olympics in China, Beijing (Clarey, 2009). The South African girl named Caster Semenya who at her age of 18 years old, created a doubt on her gender identity because of her record breaking performance in the 2008 Olympic, 800 meters race (Clarey, 2009). After passing all the genetic and hormone examinations of the IOC, she participated in the 2008 Olympic Games, but the people who examined her again claim suspicious question about her femininity characteristic (Clarey 2009). The reason for the doubtful was that she had only two seconds to break the record as a young female athlete (Clarey 2009). Though the test pointed out some women athletes as men, the gene test is not creditable. There are some athletes who suspected from the Olympic Games as they failed in the gender identity question. They were a Poland runner Ewa Klobukowska in 1967, including Spanish Hurdler Maria José Martínez Patino in 1980, and Indian runner Santhi Soundarajan in 2006 (Thomas, 2008). On the other hand, there was a fault on gender identity test in 1996, that the IOC community said, eight athletes are not women, but the doctors said that the genetic will not give them any physical advantage to them (Thomas, 2008). There was another case that in the test lab there may be some male gene in the air would go in to the test tube and gave negative results (Gina, 1992).
There are lots of effects on women participation due to the discrimination and limitations towards women. There are ‘death threats’ on women athletes from some restricted countries. The one Afghani Olympic athlete in the 800 meters and 1500 meters races, Mahbooba Ahadyar, had a threat by some communities people who do not like women to participate in sports activities made her to leave her training half way before the Olympics started in 2008 (Marzban, 2008). Muslim women are asked to wear hijabs while they are participating in the Olympic Games. For 2012 Olympic Games there will be Afghani women boxers who are training with hijabs, though the International Boxing Association (IBA) claims the difficulties to count the punches on face of the boxers, who are wearing hijab and hiding their faces and heads (Marzban, 2008). There are still lots of sports banned from women as well as some countries did not allow the women to participate in some sports. The Muslim women are not allowed to participate in swimming and track events, especially Afghani and Iranian women (Marzban, 2008).

There are lots of activities and discussion to improve women participation in the Olympic Games. There is an obvious question about Saudi Arabia, that why the IOC has not banned Saudi Arabia from the Olympic community nor will IOC ban them from 2012 Olympics as this country did not follow the IOC’s principles (Wallechinsky, 2008). Saudi Arabia has participated in eight Olympic Games and there have been 122 men participated from Saudi, but still now there is no women athlete from Saudi (Wallechinsky, 2008). Even Saudi did not allow the women to carry the sign of king’s name in the national opening ceremony (Wallechinsky, 2008). There are lots of Muslim countries formed boxing team for the Olympic Games. Afghan women generated women boxing team and will go for the 2012 Olympics, Egypt Generated women boxing team and some of the women fighting wearing hijab, and Iranian Boxing federation also generated women boxing team and working on the prober dress for the women boxers (Marie Woolf, 2009).
All in all, after more than hundreds of years also the women have been discriminated in sports activities, especially in the Olympic Games. Most of the best women competitors are hiding from the world because of their culture and beliefs in their countries; and they are concerned about their future. There are lots of women who are embarrassed by the gender identity examination on them. Though women broke the barrier of participation in Olympic Games through the years, they have distinguished in country, sports, and event.

References
Olympic.org.2009. Retrieved from http://www.olympic.org/en/content/Results /?q=women%20issues%20in%20olympics Oct 2010

Olympicwomen.2009. Retrieved from http://www.olympicwomen.co.uk/Statistics.htm 1 Nov 2010

Wallechinsky, David. (2008 Jul 29). Should Saudi Arabia be banned from the Olympics? The Huffington post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-wallechinsky/should-saudi-arabia-be-...

Clarey, Christopher. (2009 Aug 19). Gender test after a gold-medal finish. The New York Times. Retrieved fromhttp://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/20/sports/20runner.html?_r=1

Marzban, Omid. (2008 Jul 11). Only female afghan Olympic athlete flees amid death threats. Refworld. Retrieved fromhttp://www.unhcr.org/refworld/ topic,4565c22523,4565c25f28d,487b127826,0.html

Kolata, Gina. (1992 Feb 12). Track Federation Urges End to Gene Test for Femaleness. TheNewYork Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/1992/02/12/sports/track-federation-urges-end-to-g...

Thomas, Katie. (2008 Jul 30). A Lab Is Set to Test the Gender of Some Female Athletes. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/30/sports/olympics/ 30gender.html?scp=1&sq=A%20Lab%20Is%20Set%20to%20Test%20the%20Gender%20of%20Some%20Female%20Athletes&st=cse

Marie Woolf, Whitehall. (2009 Oct 04). Muslim Women Boxers to Wear Hijab at 2012 Olympics. The Sunday Times. Retrieved from http://www.timesonline.co.uk /tol/news/politics/article6860256.ece

ds.jpg

Downloads

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Letters to a Better World

Letters to a Better World

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

VIRGIN ISLANDS: Queens Igniting Fire Ending Violence

VIRGIN ISLANDS: Queens Igniting Fire Ending Violence

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

World Pulse Launches our Inaugural Community Advisory Board!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative