The Lord Davies Report may have galvanised us last year, but it’s the Olympics that have moved women – and gender diversity in sport – forward in giant leaps this year. While Team GB has astounded us with their medal-winning prowess, the major theme of London 2012 has been all about women. We got a flavour of this right from the start when gold-medal heptathlete Jessica Ennis was chosen as poster-girl for the London Olympics. Not only was her face pasted over every billboard before the games, it was also beamed up at tourists and athletes alike arriving at London Heathrow from a field along the airport flight path – and what an initial, powerful symbol she has proved to be.
First for Saudi Women
The 2012 Olympics will go down in the history books for having women represented from every country, including firsts from Saudi Arabia, Brunei and Qatar – remember Saudi bans women’s athletics events, sports clubs and prevents any form of physical education in girls’ schools. Who can forget the sight of Sarah Attar running on the track in her modified sports kit to cover her head and body? Even if she gained last place, she won a top place in the global audience’s heart and mind that day.
First for US Women
Likewise the US – outright winners of the games’ medal league – owes a lot to its women. For the first time US women athletes outnumbered men and they also won more gold medals, 29 of their 46 medals. While China, second in the Olympics medal league table, can thank their women athletes as well. They won 20 of the 38 gold medals for China.
First for Women’s Boxing
And continuing on the theme of firsts: it was the first games to include women’s boxing. All of the 23 nations who sent 36 female boxers made history. And even if my 92-year-old neighbour thinks ‘it’s not ladylike(!)’ she couldn’t deny that Nicola Adams, the British gold-medal winner of the flyweight class with the million-watt smile, was a modern-day heroine.
First for Pregnant Women
It was also a first for women concerning pregnancy and the Olympics .The world waited with baited breath to see if eight-months’ pregnant Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, representing Malaysia in the air rifle shooting, made it through her competition before giving birth. She did and came a respectable 34th or out 56. As she said in a BBC interview: ‘It was my goal to take part, my dream and I wasn’t going to miss it for anything’. Inspirational words and deeds. It’s been a glorious time for women and don’t doubt for a moment that they’ve taken giant strides forward on a very public global stage. And there’s no turning back.