Women's Sport: Why the Tokyo Olympics will be the most equal games yet

The fight for equality at the Olympics dates back to 1900 when the first women were allowed to compete in five events, but over 100 years later, Tokyo 2020 looks set to become the most equal games yet. 

The International Olympic Committee has announced that 48.8 per cent of the competitors in Tokyo will be women and that by Paris 2024 participation should be equally split 50:50.

They have also introduced two policies to further boost equality. Firstly, they have made it compulsory for every team to be comprised of at least one male and one female athlete. This is a development of London 2012 when all National Olympic Committees managed to include at least one woman in their delegation. 

Secondly, at the opening ceremony, countries will be allowed to have joint flag bearers so that both a man and a woman have the honour of leading in their country.

The IOC president Thomas Bach said: “With these two initiatives, the IOC is sending another extremely strong message to the world that gender balance is a reality at the Olympic Games.”

Other moves towards equality include four international federations – Canoe, Rowing, Shooting and Weightlifting – having gender-balanced events for the first time. Some are also introducing equal athlete quotas, these include Canoe, Judo, Rowing, Sailing, Shooting and Weightlifting. 

The scheduling of Tokyo 2020 has also been designed to put the women’s events on an equal footing as the men’s – over the final weekend there will be more women’s team gold medal events and the order of play has been arranged to give women’s competitions the same status.

Away from competitions, the IOC is making moves towards equality with 46.6 per cent of the commission members being women. The number of IOC members who are women has also increased by ten per cent since 2016 to 36 per cent.

With the addition of boxing in London 2012, it was the first Olympic Games where women could compete in all disciplines and at Tokyo, all five of the new disciplines – baseball/softball, karate, skateboarding, climbing and surfing – will have events for women.

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