March 3, 2018
The first edition of the Olympic Winter Games in Chamonix in 1924 featured just 13 women, all of them figure skaters; almost a century later, at PyeongChang 2018, a record 1,242 female athletes were in action, competing across all seven winter sports.
Spearheaded by the IOC, former male bastions of winter sport have been tumbling down. In the last two decades women have broken through the glass ceiling in ice hockey (at Nagano 1998), bobsleigh (at Salt Lake City 2002) and most recently ski jumping (Sochi 2014).
Underlining the IOC’s commitment to promoting parity is the fact that the Winter Games now feature a number of mixed gender events, with curling mixed doubles and the Alpine skiing mixed team event joining luge and biathlon mixed relays, and of course, the figure skating pairs, ice dance and team event on the programme at PyeongChang 2018.
The Olympic Charter calls on the IOC to “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”. Fostering gender equality is among the 40 key recommendations contained in Agenda 2020, the roadmap for the future of the Olympic Movement.
There is still a way to travel before these goals are achieved, and there is no room for complacency, but the record number of female winter athletes taking part at PyeongChang 2018, and the fact that a number of sports have already achieved complete parity shows that good progress has been made.