Paris 2024 Olympics makes history with unprecedented full gender parity

Paris 2024 Olympics makes history with unprecedented full gender parity

Written by Alia Chebbab

Photo: Nicolas Hoizey / creative licence

  • Paris Olympics 2024 will have equal quotas for female and male athletes for the first time
  • Biased media coverage lead girls and boys to abandon sports
  • The International Olympic Committee aims to address the gender gap in sports beyond Paris 2024

In a historic move, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has distributed equal quotas for female and male athletes for the upcoming Olympic Games in Paris 2024. It is the first time The Olympics will have full gender parity and is a significant milestone in the pursuit of equal representation and opportunities for women in sports.

“We are about to celebrate one of the most important moments in the history of women at the Olympic Games, and in sport overall,” said IOC President Thomas Bach. “We are looking forward to Paris 2024, where we will see the results of the enormous efforts made by the Olympic Movement and female trailblazers come to life. This is our contribution to a more gender-equal world.”

The participation of female athletes has increased steadily over the years. From a 2.2% participation rate in the inaugural inclusion of women at the Olympic Games in Paris 1900, it reached 23% in Los Angeles 1984, 44% at London 2012, and achieved an all-time high of 48% at Tokyo 2020. 

In collaboration with International Sports Federations (IFs) and National Olympic Committees (NOCs), Paris 2024 will showcase a more gender-balanced sports programme, with gender parity for 28 out of 32 sports. The event will also include a more gender-balanced distribution of medal events, featuring 152 women’s events, 157 men’s events, and 20 mixed-gender events, ensuring that over half of all medal events will be open to female athletes. The IOC is also encouraging all National Olympic Committees to include a minimum of one female and one male athlete in their delegation.


The role of the media’s representation of women in sports

According to a 2021 report on gender equality and inclusion, the IOC pinpointed three key challenges unique to women’s sports: underrepresentation, lack of recognition, and the tendency to be initially identified as women, females, wives, or mothers before being acknowledged as athletes. These gender biases, said the IOC, highlight why women’s portrayal in sport is important.

“Men aren’t immune from comments about their physique, such as when wearing tight trunks, but women get it more and it’s more important because of the history of inequality,” said Anna Watkins, British rower and double London 2012 Olympic medallist. 

The report revealed that only 4% of sports media content focuses on female athletes, with women presenting only 12% of sports news. Women also make up just 20% of accredited media professionals at the Olympic games. 

“Being told that you run like a man or throw like a girl, that a certain sport isn’t appropriate because you’re of a certain gender. Derogatory comments such as these, and pressures to conform to feminine or masculine stereotypes and ideals, are harmful to those participating, and wanting to participate, in sport. They can ultimately lead to girls and boys abandoning sport entirely,” the IOC wrote. 

With the record participation of female athletes at the Olympic Games, there is a unique opportunity to change the narrative and defy negative gender stereotypes, highlight strong, positive, and diverse role models, and promote  fair, balanced and diverse coverage of athletes.

Advancing gender equality in sports

As the leader of the Olympic Movement, the IOC is taking continuous action to advance gender equality in sports. The committee issued comprehensive guidelines for content creators and media outlets to cover the Olympics inclusively. These guidelines emphasise fair and unbiased portrayals of athletes through clear, consistent, and balanced editorial direction. They suggest the creation of a database featuring contacts of female athletes, coaches, sports scientists, leaders, and experts for reference as sources. IOC also recommends the promotion of visually respectful content, showcasing the diversity of athletes, embracing their ethnicities and age groups.

The IOC runs several programmes providing opportunities for girls to access sport at a grassroots level, supporting female coaches’ progression to elite status, and women striving to reach leadership positions. At Tokyo 2020, only 13 percent of coaches were women.

“Our commitment to advancing gender equality does not end in Paris,” said Bach. “We will continue to open pathways for women and to work with our stakeholders, encouraging them to take the necessary steps to advance gender equality in their area of responsibility. The IOC will keep leading the way and using the power of sport to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society.”


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