The IOC has renewed and expanded the program for the Paris Games in 2024, but the maximum number of participants is still 10,500. An important new goal for the IOC: an equal number of male and female participants.
In the last century, the number of athletes at the Olympic Games has only increased, with occasional temporary interruptions due to political boycotts (Montreal 1976, Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984) or large travel distances to European countries (St. Louis 1904, Los Angeles 1932 and Melbourne 1956). However, since 1996 saturation has occurred and the number of participants ranges from ten to eleven thousand. It is therefore likely that the target of 10,500 participants maximum will be met.
However, the IOC’s biggest ambition is to have as many men as women participate in Paris. Moritz Hendricks, Technical Director of NOC-NSF: “The IOC has been trying to equalize these numbers for some time. My impression is that this is done very carefully, when you see what has changed in the last Olympics. In 2016, it was almost the same in Rio de Janeiro. Paris 2024 is nothing more than a last step.
If this mission succeeds, it will be the conclusion of a long process of Olympic emancipation, starting with literally zero in 1896 with only male participation. The changes came gradually. In 1928, athletics and gymnastics became the leading sports for women. The first team sport opened in 1964. In 1992, women were allowed to practice martial arts and strength sports.
For example, the number of female Olympians gradually grew until the 1970s, after which there was a tremendous acceleration, a process that Hendrix experienced firsthand. Equality has always been the case in many sports, such as hockey. Boxing and weightlifting were more conservative, since they were only opened to women in this century.” According to Hendricks, the pressure of the International Olympic Committee was decisive in this. “Otherwise, nothing will change.” Thus, boxing and weightlifting will be completely equal in 2024 in terms of number of Participants and the number of medals events.
This Olympic emancipation means men have to give up, because in two steps their number drops from more than 6,100 in Rio de Janeiro to 5,250 in Paris – a drop of nearly 15 percent. It makes no difference to the Netherlands, says Hendricks. With us, these proportions are already equal. There is no longer any discrimination between men and women here.” At the 2016 Olympics, Dutch women were in the majority for the first time.
Women have also won the most TeamNL medals at all summer games since 2000: more than 60 percent. With the increasing importance of women’s sports in the Olympics, the Netherlands already has an advantage there. To a lesser extent, this also applies to Canada, China and the United States, where women are now more successful than men.
It is precisely the less liberal sporting countries that lag behind as a result of this feminization if they do not adapt quickly. In Olympic superpowers such as Great Britain, Italy and Germany, women have won only 30 to 40 percent of all medals in the last five Summer Games. The country with the worst result here was France, of the 189 Olympic medals since 2000, only 60 were for female athletes.
Remarkably, the IOC has called on international sports federations to achieve equal gender distribution by 2024, but not the National Olympic Committees. This also surprises Hendrix. “It is of course less easy to organize that, because there are big differences around the world between the participating countries. But this does not change the fact that the IOC should at least encourage all National Committees to achieve equality.”
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