| LONDON, July 25
LONDON, July 25 Women's rights campaigners
called on Wednesday for an end to sex discrimination at the
Olympics, urging the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to
ensure there are equal numbers of sports and medals for men and
Representatives from various European women's groups met in
London for a symbolic burial of the Olympic Charter, saying its
principles of condoning any form of discrimination and upholding
equality of men and women had been decimated.
Annie Sugier, spokewoman for the International League of
Women's Rights, acknowledged progress has been made with all
countries to have female athletes on their teams at London for
the first time and women boxers making their debut, ending the
last all-male sport at the summer Games.
But she said at the London Games, starting Friday and
running until Aug. 12, women are competing in 30 fewer events
than men and only 132 gold medals are available to women
compared to 162 for men.
"It is clear that more needs to be done as there is still
gender discrimination at the Olympics," Sugier told Reuters.
"The Olympic Games play a critical role in building a better
world and are more than just a sports competition. This is the
one place in the world where there are no borders and one law
for all and that can lead to change in society."
The demonstrators, uniting under the banner "London 2012:
Justice for Women", drafted seven demands to be included in a
letter delivered to all IOC members on Wednesday.
The list included having the same number of medal events for
men and women, ensuring women held 50 percent of positions in
leading sports bodies, and enforcing neutrality in sport by
banning the wearing of political or religious symbols.
An IOC spokeswoman told Reuters that there had been a real
momentum towards gender equality in sport over the past 30 years
with statistics showing that more women were taking part.
"As a general rule, the IOC strives to ensure the Olympic
Games and the Olympic Movement are universal and
non-discriminatory, in line with the Olympic Charter and our
values of respect, friendship and excellence. National Olympic
Committees (NOCs) are encouraged to uphold that spirit in their
delegations," she said.
"We would hope that London will see the highest percentage
of female participation in history," she added.
Anne-Marie Lizin, honorary president of the Belgian Senate,
said it was disappointing the IOC had allowed some countries,
including Saudi Arabia, to only allow female athletes to compete
if they covered themselves up.
At the Beijing 2008 Olympics, 14 countries had veiled women.
"We want all women in all countries of the world to have
access to sport, to be able to complete and have the possibility
of coming to the Olympics - and to wear what they want," said
The demonstrators called for women's sports to be given the
same profile as men's sports, citing the medal ceremony for the
men's marathon as a key example.
IOC President Jacques Rogge presents the gold medal to the
men's marathon winner but not to the winner of the women's race.
"It is outrageous that the IOC president will present the
gold medal for the men's marathon but not for the women's," said
human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of the Peter Tatchell
Foundation. "Discrimination against women is particularly acute
at the Olympics."
However, Britain's Women's Sport and Fitness Foundation
(WSFF), a charity that aims to make women active and confident,
praised the London Olympics for being the most women-friendly to
date with women outnumbering men on the U.S. and Canadian teams.
Sue Tibballs, CEO of WSFF, said her organisation has
launched a Twitter hashtag, #gogirl, to build support for the
British women athletes.
"There is an important point to be made. Female role models
are essential to inspire young girls to be more active,
particularly in a culture that tells them that it is more
important to be thin than fit," said Tibballs.
(Reporting by Belinda Goldsmith; Editing by Patrick Johnston)