Apr 2015 saw the Boat Race finally have the men's and women's races on an equal footing. Heralded as a progression for women's sport, that just leaves the heptathlon/decathlon issue to sort, right..?
I agree with the view that it's progress to see the boat races happen over the same course, on the same day, both televised live. The previous set up implied that the race for the women was a lesser event, maybe just a novelty or a token. Of course it was never that for those involved, but to the general sports fan that may well be how it seemed.
I'll come back to the reason behind this new boat race equality later, but since those events do now have equality, to my mind it seems natural to look at the heptathlon/decathlon issue...
The men do the decathlon, 10 events over 2 days. The women do the heptathlon, 7 events over 2 days. To me that begs the simple question - why?
For the women to go up to the 10 event decathlon, they'd need to lengthen the 200m to 400m, lengthen the 800m to 1500m, and add the 100 metres, the discus and the pole vault.
I think that last one is the main reason we still have the different events, and that's based on sporting administrators, male sporting administrators, thinking that the toughest of men's events are damaging to a woman's body.
Look how long it took for the women's marathon to get to the Olympics. Look at the fact that the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics were the first to feature women's ski jumping. Both of those events were originally banned due to a belief that those events would be damaging for woman. A belief with no evidence ever.
If we look at the pole vault, it was only Sydney 2000 that saw the women's event get to the Olympics, and it's been a highlight of the track and field programme ever since!
So, that explains why the decathlon was not considered possible for women in the past, and they got the 'easier' 7 event heptathlon.
In that time the heptathlon has grown into its' own event, which is a highlight in its' own right - and that makes a strong second reason for keeping it in place; if it ain't broke don't fix it, right?
Hmm, I'm not so sure...
We've seen that the women can do the pole vault, of course they can. Adding in the discus and the 100m would not be an issue, so there's no real reason to not have a decathlon for women.
If we go back to the boat race, and why the women finally got an equal boat race, the reason was money. Yes, there had been campaigning for years and years, but it was the CEO of the race's sponsor that made the difference.
You won't be surprised to hear that this particular CEO is a woman, Helena Morrissey of Newton Investment. She said that they would sponsor the showpiece men's race, but only if the women's race was over the same course, on the same day with the same live TV coverage.
Money talks in sport.
That's just the way it is. If it's a woman in charge of that money, you can expect to see progression on the equality front, as Morrissey has clearly shown.
I'm not sure if money is the issue with the heptathlon/decathlon, because as I've mentioned, the heptathlon already gets treated 'equally' as an event currently.
As a decade long sports fan, I'd love to see the women doing the decathlon. Maybe it's just me though, maybe there's just no interest or campaign to have the women move up to the 10 eventer.
Maybe I should *start* the campaign! Are you in..?
P.S. Don't even get me started on the tennis women playing 3 sets instead of the men's 5!
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