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Gender discrimination in sports: Paris picking up the baton from Tokyo

Gender equality is an issue for both the organizers of the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer and the French organizers that will host the 2024 Olympic Games.

The delayed games in Tokyo will be the first gender equal games, the International Olympic Committee has assured after the organizing committee for the games had to change its president because of his comment about women talking too much. Now the French sports minister has said the French society is at a turning point for women’s right in the world of sports.

The issue was stressed by a documentary in French TV channel Canal+ where a number of female journalists told their story about discrimination. Later 150 women journalists made a statement saying it’s time for women journalists to unite and put pressure on the world of sports.

Sports Minister Roxana Maracineanu, herself a swimmer and silver-medalist at the games in Sydney 2000, told news agency AP that “whether we are a female journalist or a female minister or a female leader, today, if we want to advance the (women’s) cause, we need to push it forward with determination, ambition, conviction, because it can change people’s way of thinking.”

About half of France’s journalists are women, although they make up only 10% of the country’s 3 000 sports journalists.



Maracineanu said she herself has experienced sexist attitudes in her job — including people saying she’s not competent or legitimate enough to supervise all sports, especially those traditionally viewed as masculine.

“They make me feel I don’t have the right to speak about some topics because social media or even some journalists or commentators feel they are allowed to call into question what I’m saying as sports minister. I often get some remarks saying, ‘You, you know about swimming, but you don’t know about soccer or rugby.’”

Maracineanu is arguing in favour of a proposed law that would mean having as many women as men in national and regional executive bodies of sports federations. If implemented, the changes would mostly start applying in 2024 when Paris is hosting the Olympic Games.



After the documentary and the discussions, a number of media companies in France have announced own internal investigations of women discrimination. According to news reports, three persons at one TV channel have lost their jobs.

The sports minister said that when women will be equals to men on a television show, in the executive committee of a company or a sports federation and be able to say out loud what they think and what they want to do and be heard the same way men are being heard today “that will be fair.”

Diversity surprisingly became an issue for the Tokyo organizers when the president of the organizing committee, Yoshiro Mori, said that women talk too much.

It did not take long before he had to resign, a woman, Seiko Hashimoto – an Olympic bronze-medalist – was appointed his successor and the Tokyo Olympic Games made a symbolic gesture toward gender equality with 12 women appointed to the organizing committee’s executive board that now has 19 women among its 45 members, or 42% and up from around 20%

The postponed Tokyo Olympics are to open on 23 July, followed by the Paralympics on 24 August.


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