This week will see the start of the greatest sporting competition in the world. London 2012 brings together athletes from all over the globe to compete on the world stage. This year women are leading the way not only in their sporting capabilities, but also as role models. This is especially significant as 2012 is the first year that every nation competing has a female athlete in their team. This is a significant step given that in the first modern Olympics held in 1896 women were excluded and it wasn't until 1900 that Charlotte Cooper, a British tennis player, became the first woman to win an Olympic medal.
This year women will account for about 40 percent of the 10,500 athletes. This is roughly twice as many women than were represented four decades ago, according to a recent Goldman Sachs report 'The Olympics and Economics.' Other milestones this year include the United States team consisting of more women than men and Saudi Arabia sending two female athletes to the games for the first time in history; Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, a judo competitor, and 800 meters runner Sarah Attar. These are impressive steps and statistics that should be highly commended.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has been particularly supportive of female athletes. The Olympic Charter states that one of the roles of the IOC is "to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures, with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women". One of the IOC's greatest achievements is the negotiation with Saudi Arabia to encourage the country to send women to the Olympics, as well as the invitation it extended to athletes from Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia even though they did not technically qualify for the Games. This has set a powerful example regarding progress and the role sport can play in empowering women and encouraging equality.
Women achieving great success and also being acknowledged for their achievements is something that the Olympics champions and can be immensely proud of. By recognising women's athletic achievements it sends a strong global message about the capabilities of women and also the importance of encouraging determination and dedication to pursuits of the highest standard.
Sports women are powerful advocates not only for women but also for the countries they represent. They have the opportunity to represent their countries on the global stage and in doing so create positive and progressive attitudes to their home nations.
The Olympics should be held as a benchmark for attitudes towards women and educate the world on equality and the impact women can have not only in the sporting world but in general. Athletes are tremendous role models for women and girls around the world and this is something that can be mirrored beyond the sporting arena. The progress that has been made for London 2012 needs to continue and spread to ensure we keep encouraging equality as a norm and not just something reserved for the Olympics.