The Paris 2024 Olympics are Poised to Make History

For the first time ever, the IOC has allocated places equally to women and men.

May 7, 2024
The Paris 2024 Olympics are Poised to Make History | For the first time ever, the IOC has allocated places equally to women and men.

Set to take place in Paris, France, between July 26 and August 11 this year, the Paris 2024 Olympic Games are poised to make history as the first ever Olympics to realize gender parity across the sports. Appreciating that the Games are a key platform for empowering women, according to IOC News, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has allocated places equally to female and male athletes in what is the largest global sporting event.

For 2024, as WCVB details, the Olympic logo is embellished with an outline of the Marianne, the French symbol of liberty, equality and fraternity.

Paris 2024: The first gender equal Olympic Games ever!
The historical significance of this milestone ratio is not lost on 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,” he says. The IOC intends to use the power of sport to contribute to a more equal and inclusive society in the future, he also declares.

According to Sports Pro Media, 5,250 men and 5,250 women are set to compete in Paris. 

Beyond the figures, the IOC emphasizes that it has implemented changes to increase the visibility of women at the Games from the Opening Ceremony onwards, where the IOC is encouraging each country to have one male and one female athlete carry the flag.

In the scheduling of sporting events too, a more gender-balanced schedule seeks to equip journalists with the chance to better balance their coverage, which in turn will better encourage next-gen female athletes to follow their role models in the media.  For the first time since its inclusion in the Olympic program in 1984, the women’s marathon will round off the athletics events on August 11, showcasing the performance of female athletes.

Nancy Lee, Gender Equality Advisor for the IOC explains that the scheduling aims to achieve gender balance on each day of the Games and within every sport, quoted in an IOC article on the IOC about how reprogramming through a gendered lens can contribute to equal visibility for women’s sports:

“Supporters of women’s sport often look to the media for coverage in the hope it will raise the profile of women’s sport. But if women’s events are not scheduled proportionally, there can’t be equal coverage,” is how she expresses this.

Serious thought was put into this scheduling route: “We also had an advisor specifically for this programme who could tell us where, depending on the popularity of a particular sport in a [specific] time zone, it would be best to place a particular women’s event [in the schedule],” Aurélie Merle of the IOC shares with Sports Pro Media. The goal was to secure primetime media coverage of women’s events.

A slow race through history
The history of the Olympics is one that has seen women largely excluded from  these respected global sporting events for decades. Euronews points out that the founder of the IOC, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, barred women from competing in the first modern Olympics in 1895.  As the IOC News details, women totalled just 2.2 percent of the participants at the Olympic Games Paris in 1900 when they competed for the first time. This ratio only rose gradually; women didn’t make up more than 10 percent of participants until 1952. In Los Angeles, the US, in 1987, women still only made up 23 percent of athletes. But things then started to improve. Women made up 44 percent of sportspeople in the London Olympics in 2012, and 48 percent in Tokyo in 2020.

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Significantly, the IOC has examined instances of gender-based stereotyping of women in sport. Its 2021 report on gender equality and inclusion, for instance, referenced on Nadja, reflected the tendency for female competitors to be initially identified as women, females, wives or mothers before being acknowledged as athletes. It also covered the limited media content on female athletes, and the smaller number of accredited female media professionals at the Olympic Games.

Some hurdles remain
Even the IOC recognizes that challenges remain. It admits that 28 out of 32 sports will be completely gender equal in Paris, while the Paris schedule will comprise 152 women’s events compared to 157 men’s events, and 20 mixed-gender ones.  It also wants to see more women in leadership positions within the IOC itself.

Euronews points out that gender parity isn’t fully respected. For instance, wrestling is a sport in which only men compete, while women are the only ones to take part in rhythmic gymnastics. 

“Parity is not the same thing as equality. It's a numerical equality. Gender equality is a much fuller understanding of men and women, not only having the same number of opportunities but having the same conditions of participation,” Michele Donnelly, assistant professor of sports management at Brock University, tells Euronews.

The IOC has modified some events,  including the 50km walk, once reserved for men,  which will now be a mixed relay race. A few sports also don’t have gender differentiation, such as archery, triathlon and badminton, Donnelly observes. However, some gender-based differences persist in aspects of the Games such as the length of races, and uniforms. 

“Claims that are being made right now [of gender equality] are very concerning because they're sending the message that we're there, we've achieved gender equality and we just haven't," she explains. Meanwhile, women remain underrepresented as coaches and technical officials.

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.