By Danette Rivera
Baron Pierre de Coubertin triumphantly revived the modern-day Olympics in 1896 declaring, “All sports must be treated on the basis of equality.”1 As to why women weren’t allowed to compete in these first Games, de Coubertin explained that allowing women is “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and incorrect." I guess he didn’t mean equality equality. Even the ancient Olympic Games added the Heraea Games in 6 BC for women athletes to compete in honor of goddess Hera. This is not to say that the ancient Games were equal, but did we really have to start from scratch 2,300 years later, Pierre?
We were first allowed to compete in the 1900 Olympic Games in tennis and golf wearing long gowns. We wore long, wool garments when we were allowed to compete in swimming in 1912. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was possibly trying to drown us rather than keep us decent. In 1928, women competed in track and field events for the first time, but “because of the exhausted condition of some of the women at the end of the 800 meter final, [women’s track & field] was dropped from the Olympic program until 1960.”2 God forbid we should breathe hard and sweat at the end of competition.
We’ve been tossed sports throughout the years ever since. The latest being: the introduction of women’s shooting events and the marathon in 1984, and then women’s judo in 1992. We couldn’t compete in Olympic weightlifting or the hammer throw (yes, this is still a sport) until 2000. 2012 marks the first year women will compete in boxing at the Olympic level.
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As we celebrate the thirtieth Olympic Games, we are still setting significant milestones for women in the Olympics. One hundred and sixteen years after the Games’ modern-day revival, we are still fighting to prove our legitimacy as athletes at every level.
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