Tokyo Olympics: Organisers praised for asking media to give gender-equal coverage

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Organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have been praised after asking members of the media to provide gender-balanced coverage of the Games.

Washington Post reporter Ava Wallace shared a page from the Tokyo 2020 media handbook on Twitter. “Dunno know if this is always the case at the Olympics, but the page of our Tokyo 2020 media handbook has reminders and tips about gender equity in coverage,” she wrote.

The page features a number of statistics which highlight the gender inequity still prevailing in the media’s coverage of sport. It claims male athletes are 67 percent more likely to be a lead story, and female athletes are 20 percent more likely to be spoken for by a male coach.

In addition, the top words used to describe a female athlete are often “aged”, “older” and “married”, while the top words for a male athlete include “fast”, “strong” and “beat”.

The page also features a number of tips for members of the media. It asks reporters to think about the words they are using to describe a female athlete in comparison to a male athlete, to consider who they are asking for comment, and to select photos that show sportswomen as strong, confident and capable.

Organisers have also asked media to monitor their coverage of female sports at the Games and choose more non-gendered words, such as spokesperson, sportsperson, chair and athlete.

Wallace and other social media users have praised organisers for providing the tips in the media handbook, although many were alarmed at some of the statistics given.

“Really good to see Tokyo Olympics Media Handbook highlighting the different ways male and female sport is reported,” said Women in Film & TV UK chair Liz Tucker. “Female athletes are 9 times more likely to be pictured with partners, male athletes 67% more likely to be lead story. Shows very clearly what needs to change.”

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been working to ensure Tokyo 2020 is the first ever gender-equal Games. Female athlete participation will be at almost 49 percent, while countries such as Great Britain, China, Australia, Canada and the United States are sending more female athletes than male to Tokyo.

In addition, the IOC has asked every participating country to send at least one male and one female athlete to the Games, and for the first time ever, has encouraged nations to have a male and female flag-bearer at the Opening Ceremony.

The Olympics will get underway on July 23rd and conclude on August 8th. Thanks to the significant number of gender equity policies in place, the Games look set to be a celebration of women’s sport and female athletes.

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