Olympics 880 people sign appeal for gender equality

London – 3 August 2012


880 people have signed an appeal urging the President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, to “present the gold medal to the winner of the women’s marathon, not just to the winner of the men’s marathon.”

The appeal was presented today to IOC officials at their Hilton Hotel headquarters by Peter Tatchell, Director of the human rights advocacy group, the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

In a cover letter to Jacques Rogge, Mr Tatchell states:

“I am writing on behalf of the 880 people who have signed our appeal for you to present the gold medal to the women’s marathon winner, either on Sunday 5 August 2012 – or on Sunday 12 August 2012, alongside the presentation of the gold medal to the winner of the men’s marathon. This would be an important symbolic affirmation of gender equality by the IOC.

“Historically, the President of the IOC presents the gold medal to the winner of the men’s marathon but not to the winner of the women’s marathon. This gender discrimination signals to the world that the men’s marathon is deemed more prestigious than the women’s marathon, which is an insult to women athletes and to all women everywhere

“This request is symbolic of our call for full gender equality at the Olympics. There remain many instances of discrimination against women, which we ask the IOC to remedy before Rio 2016.

“Although the Olympic Charter prohibits gender discrimination in sport the IOC often fails to enforce it,” wrote Mr Tatchell.


Examples of on-going gender inequality at the Olympics include:

At London 2012, there are more Olympic events for men than for women, which means that male athletes have more opportunities to win medals than their female counterparts.

Gender discrimination exists in athletics, canoeing, rowing, wrestling, shooting, and boxing.

Many of the additional events for men are based on the sexist assumption that women are the weaker sex. These male-only events include the 50 km walk and the decathlon.

In two instances, men are denied the opportunity to compete in perceived feminine events: rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming. This is equally discriminatory and offensive.

As well as practising gender discrimination itself, the IOC colludes with gender discrimination by competing nations and their National Olympic Committees by not requiring them to comply with the equality provisions of the Olympic Charter.

This discrimination against women is, in some instances, a form of gender apartheid. But whereas race apartheid was condemned by the IOC and resulted in South Africa being banned from the Olympics for many years, the separation and unequal treatment of women athletes is mostly tolerated by the Olympic movement, as the examples of Saudi Arabia and Iran illustrate:

Saudi Arabia’s government blocks women from participating in sport. Many private women’s gyms have been closed down and girls are banned from taking part in sport at school.

The Saudi Olympic committee has ruled that women athletes must shroud their bodies head to toe and be accompanied by male guardians at all times. It has selected only two token women athletes to compete in the London Olympics. Neither woman actually lives in Saudi Arabia. One was born and raised in the US; enjoying sporting opportunities there that are denied to Saudi-resident women. No woman who lives in Saudi Arabia is being allowed to compete in London 2012.

Iran has gender segregation for both sport participants and spectators. It forces women athletes to cover their entire bodies, even if they do not want to. Women competitors are forbidden to have male coaches or to participate in events that involve physical contact with male sports officials.

Social marginalisation and exclusion means that in many countries women are unlikely to be able to represent their country at the Olympics, no matter how talented they are.

The IOC’s failure to ensure that participating nations comply with the Olympic Charter has resulted in an Olympics that is not a level playing field. This gender inequality should have been remedied before London 2012 and must be remedied before Rio 2016.

The Olympic Charter – The Fundamental Principles of Olympism:

4. The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.

6. Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.

7. Belonging to the Olympic Movement requires compliance with the Olympic Charter.

For further information:
Peter Tatchell, Director, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org