The Growing Power of Women at London Olympics
From being non-existent at the first modern Olympics to being nearly half of the total competitors in current edition, women athletes have come a long way and the London Games are surely abuzz with women power.
From the inclusion of women’s boxing and allowing women to be represented in every Olympic sport, to 16-year-old Chinese swimming sensation Ye Shiwen smashing the world record for both women and men, this edition of the greatest sporting extravaganza has the women in their element.
With nearly 45 percent female athletes, for the first time in the Olympics’ 116-year history, every competing nation has at least one woman athlete. Thirty-four nations, including the USA, sent teams with more female athletes than male.
International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge received a loud ovation at the Opening Ceremony when he noted the rising status of women in the Olympic movement, calling the 2012 Games “a major boost for gender equality.”
The confluence of positive events for women included the historic decisions of Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar — the final three male-only holdouts in the Olympic world — to bring in at least one female athlete to the Games.
Amidst all the frenzy, Saudi Arabian female judoka, Wojdan Ali Shaherkani, hogged the limelight the most, even though she competed for just 82 seconds before being eliminated by her Puerto Rican opponent.
“Hopefully this will be the start of bigger participation for other sports also. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era,” Shaherkani said after her historic bout.
The first Olympic events for women were held at the Paris Games of 1900. Of the 997 athletes, 22 were female, and they participated in tennis, golf, croquet, sailing and equestrian.