It's finally here! This week the Summer Games begin. I-- and my DVR-- are ready. While some are calling them the Title IX Olympics, I prefer the XX(X) Olympics. Sure it's the first time that women (269) outnumber men (261) on the US team (hence the "Title IX" moniker [and it helps that this is the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX]), but that just addresses the US. A lot has been happening internationally as well.
After some back-and-forth it's the first time that every Olympic nation will be represented by a woman at the Games (though I'd be remiss not to mention that one of the Saudi Arabian women grew up in the US and likely wouldn't have had the same opportunities to develop in sport if she had grown up in Saudi Arabia; though Khadija Mohammed, a 17-year-old from the UAE, did grow up in the Persian Gulf and will be the first female to represent her country in the Olympics and the first Persian Gulf woman to lift at the Olympics).
Since the 1908 London Games women's participation has risen from 1.8% to 9.5% in London 1948 to over 40% at this London Games. It's also the first time that women will compete in every sport (thanks to the inclusion of female boxing).
Not only are there more female athletes but women are making strides in other aspects of the Games. This year for the first time ever Russia will have a female flag-bearer in this Friday's Opening Ceremonies (tennis superstar Maria Sharapova). Female coaches are also making strides. I find it somewhat odd that the USA women's swim team has a female head coach for the first time, but it's true.
Is there more work to be done when it comes to athletic equality between men and women? Of course. Case in point? Last week there was outrage after the Japanese women's soccer team (who is better than the men's team) was flown to the Games in economy while the men enjoyed business class. Same thing for the Australian basketball teams (imagine how hard that would be with long legs!).
Still, I plan to spend the XX(X) Games celebrating amazing strength and stories of triumph. As a woman who was recently pregnant I'm in awe of Nur Suryani Mohd Taibi, a Malaysian rifle shooter who is competing while seven months pregnant. As a new mom I'm so impressed by high jumper Amy Acuff. Not only is this her fifth Olympics, but she has a young daughter and she coaches herself. Not everyone can win the Gold, or even a medal, but they can inspire and impress people around the world just by competing.
Later this week I plan to write about my favorite summer Olympics sport: gymnastics. Stay tuned and get your TV set for some inspirational performances starting this weekend!