On Watching the The Olympics (or Olympians and gender)

As with most other people, I think I am feeling a bit deflated following the close of the Olympic games. For me there were many things that I found exciting about it, the attention paid to a wide variety of sports, which included the ones many people generally are familiar with such as Football, Boxing and Tennis. There were, however, other activities which gained exposure such as Judo, Hockey Weightlifting and the various track events such as Modern Pentathlon, which despite the name is distinctly 19th Century.

I think that one positive that I found about the games is not so much the winners but the taking part. This apparently was the first Olympiad in which all countries had male and female entrants. I find that even though this event was supposedly apolitical, there is a small-p political in the participation of women. It was a real stand of defiance for a country like Saudi Arabia to put female competitors forward.

There are lots of things that can be said about the inequalities of Team GB and the lack of support of female olympians have had compared to their male counterparts. I would like to think that if there is such a thing as a legacy for the Olympic events in 2012, it would be to raise the profile of female sportspersons and atheletes both nationally and internationally and to raise awareness about the perception of physical fitness and sporting participation for women and young girls.

I kind of like how the cynics about the event had been less visible in the media. This may be a purposeful omission. The most critical and cynical thing I’ve mostly found on Twitter were comments about how the performers in the opening and closing ceremony were not their cup of tea as musical genres. It is yet to be seen what will come of ‘regeneration’ or legacy. But a little patriotism cannot be a bad thing. While it was pointed out that many of the olympians of Team GB had come from a largely private school stratification; there are instances of culturally and ethnically diverse olympians celebrated for their medal winning achievements. The face of Britain may well be a man or woman doing the ‘mobot’.

A couple of final remarks about the past couple of weeks. It has been noted that particularly with the track events (i.e. the ones with Usain Bolt), a great amount of showboating was involved when winning. There is no doubt that these are amazing athletes with entertaining personalities to match, but I suspect that male priviledge would not allow a similar kind of awe or aspect of showboating for female olympians, instead they were often described as ‘emotional’ or humbled by their achievements. There’s a real difference in gender when performing a victory that the accepted behaviour for a man is to work the applause of a crowd while for a woman, the humble and stoic smile is more apt for the presumed role.

In short, I saw a little bit of progress about the genders over the past couple of weeks, but until male athletes are better represented on search engines by objectifying search results, I don’t think there will be an equality of the sexes just yet. So for me, watching the olympics has given me a quite and humbling sense of awe about the progress of female olympians for the female sex. But not a showboating response