Gender equality in sports could shatter that barrier-A A +A
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
THE Brits have every reason to celebrate, and perhaps every right to brag: the opening ceremonies of the Summer Olympics surely exceeded all expectations with a spectacle so electrifying it commanded awe. And with no less than Queen Elizabeth taking a sabbatical from all the seriousness of royalty to join James Bond in actuality, it was one highly unforgettable event.
Danny Boyle’s magnificence – music was superb – was a fitting toast to camaraderie and sportsmanship and would certainly be regarded as the best production ever to start the Games.
But beyond the electricity and flamboyance, the London Games will also go down in history as the first Olympiad where all participating nations had female athletes to represent their flags.
Quite of significance is gender equality being totally promoted and elevated as a standard in the Olympics since it was for a long time that the Games was exclusive only for men. The reason is rather simple; there was no event for women.
In ancient times, women were reduced to having their own Games of Hera since they were not allowed to participate in the Olympics.
It was only in the Paris Games in 1900 when women officially participated in the Olympiad with the inclusion of lawn tennis, golf and other sports for females. And from there saw the gradual inclusion of the women’s version of all disciplines in the Games.
But despite more and more women events being included, countries opted not to send female athletes to the Olympics due to varying reasons, but foremost of which are political and religious limitations against women of conservative nations.
Some Middle East countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, ban school athletic activities for women due to what their leaders fear as tendencies to dress provocatively and intermingle with the men. Though women are allowed to participate in some sports activities, they, however, are forced to wear black cloaks that would cover almost their entire bodies which make it far difficult for them engage, much less excel.
Gender equality is one of the core values that the Olympics promote and has time and again encouraged Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, the only countries that have failed to send women in the Olympics, to have females as delegates.
It will be noted that the International Olympic Committee banned Afghanistan from participating in the 2000 Olympics due to the oppression committed against its women by the ruling Taliban.
Thus, it is but soothing for humanity to witness Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei sending women in the London Olympics if only to shatter all barriers towards gender equality. But the Olympics don’t lack for opposition as some critics question the inclusion of female athletes from the said countries for not passing through qualifying.
But who cares if the athletes got there even without qualifying or even if they’re simply hand-picked to comply with the IOC’s charter? If their participation can somehow open the minds of those back home to wipe the indifference off, then the means will surely justify the end.
There are far bigger issues than winning the gold; liberty and equality rank way above that. It’s time we look at the Games beyond its physical content. Muslim women finally gaining recognition from their governments, even only in sports, is a huge triumph for civilization and further fortifies humanity’s moral foundation.
Yes, it’s not a guarantee that things will now be more liberal for these women, but if their inclusion is any indication, then those black covers may soon be taken off to let the world see every woman’s beauty.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 01, 2012.