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Women at the Olympic Games

It has been a long road to equality for women at the Olympic Games. The Tokyo Olympics in 2021 are being heralded as the first gender-balanced Games in history. It is expected that almost 49 per cent of the athletes participating will be women. For the first time ever, all 206 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) should have at least one female and one male athlete in their respective Olympic teams. It has not always been this way.

The 100m ladies final from 1928 The 100m ladies final in 1928
from: The Official Report of the Olympic Games 1928

Participation in the Ancient Olympic Games was limited to male athletes only. The only way women were able to take part was to enter horses in the equestrian events. There are records of several winning women horse owners. As the owner of the horse teams, they were credited with the victory, though they were most likely not present at the events.

Even in the early years of the modern Olympics, women were not well represented (consequently a rival Women's Olympics was held). Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games with the inclusion of women's events in lawn tennis and golf. Women's athletics and gymnastics debuted at the 1928 Olympics. Over time more women's events were added. In 2012, women's boxing was introduced, resulting in no remaining sports that do not include events for women.

Equality in the available sports is one thing, but in many countries, women do not have equal rights to participate in sports and the opportunity to participate in the Olympic Games. Prior to the 2012 Olympics in London, three Muslim countries have never before sent a female athlete: Qatar, Brunei, and Saudi Arabia. However, they all bowed to IOC pressure and sent female athletes to London. Now every national Olympic committee has sent women to the Olympic Games, a small step.


Great Female Olympic Achievements

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Olympics Extra

The next Olympics will be in Paris 2024, followed by the Winter edition in Milan-Cortina 2026. Check out the list of Olympic Games sports, as well as discontinued and demonstration sports.

Major Events Extra

The largest sporting event in the world is the Olympic Games, but there are many other multi-sport games. In terms of single sport events, nothing beats the FIFA World Cup. To see what's coming up, check out the calendar of major sporting events.

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