Greater numbers of mixed-gender events at the Olympic Games

Friday, 19 july 2019

After pursuing a policy of gender parity, the Olympic movement has decided to increase the number of mixed-gender events at the Olympic Games: spectacle guaranteed!

From gender parity to diversity
The International Olympic Committee is working on two fronts in its vast drive to modernize its activities. Firstly, it is taking steps to rejuvenate its sporting events in order to reach a younger audience. To this end, it has included events in its program likely to attract new generations to the Olympic Games. This is why skateboarding and breakdancing will appear on the Olympic program.

The other major project is to ensure greater gender diversity in the Olympic Games; indeed, over the last 30 years the aim has been to ensure that there are as many sportswomen as sportsmen competing in the games. If female athletes accounted for 45% of total participants at the Rio Olympics in 2016, they represented only 26.1% of competitors at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. Since 1991, any sport that wants to be included in the Olympic program must include women’s events. As a result, all events have seen an increase in the number of female participants… to the effect that, at the Rio Olympics, only Greco-Roman wrestling failed to have an equivalent for women. On the other hand, rhythmic gymnastics and artistic swimming did not include any events for men. Let’s wager that with the success of the film Sink or Swim (“Le Grand Bain”), things will change!

Athletes love mixed-gender events
The Olympic movement is currently tending to introduce new mixed-gender events. Until now, only equestrian events included both men and women competitors in the same event. This is how the French Show Jumping Team became Olympic Team Champions with three men and one woman. On the other hand, there already existed mixed events with teams composed necessarily of one man and one woman. This was the case for the crew on the Nacra 17 catamaran in sailing, and mixed doubles in badminton and tennis.

In Tokyo, the movement would intensify with the appearance on the Olympic program of multiple mixed-gender events in disciplines unaccustomed to mixed teams, such as athletics and swimming. Different possibilities were tested at the World Youth Games, with great success. As a result, next year in Japan, there will be a mixed 4×400m relay track event, and a mixed 4×100m medley relay included in the swimming competitions. There will also be a mixed doubles match in table tennis, as is already the case in tennis. On the other hand, it will be a first for the mixed team event in judo, which already exists at the World Championships. The same goes for archery and the triathlon competitions. Note that three men’s shooting events will be replaced by three mixed events.

Finally, a multihull hydrofoil sailing race will replace the Nacra, but still in a mixed-gender format. These changes are good news for the French Olympic Team because the judo and triathlon events, in particular, could give France a good chance of winning an Olympic medal. What is certain is that these mixed events will make the Games more spectacular and attract wider public interest. We saw this when these events were tested at the Youth Olympic Games, as in Singapore in 2010 for swimming, and at the World Championships for judo. Athletes loved taking part in these rejuvenated, re-energized sporting events. They make it possible to really bring together all the members of the team into a single unit. And this new policy will also undoubtedly enjoy success in terms of popular support in each of the countries where these mixed-gender teams will truly represent the nation as a whole, both men and women together.