Tokyo Olympics works toward fair and balanced portrayal for female athletes

Japan 2020

 

TOKYO (Nexstar) — The Tokyo Olympics are being called the most gender-equal Olympics in history. Female athletes make up nearly half of the competitors. 

New International Olympics Committee guidelines hope to ensure representation in Games to come. One Olympian says it’s a step in the right direction, but the swimmer says there is still work to be done on how female athletes are portrayed. 

This week, Japan’s 1996 Olympian, Naoko Imoto, criticized her country’s portrayal of female athletes, noting coverage often focuses on a woman’s personal life and looks rather than her athletic accomplishments. So she’s working to make a difference.

Imoto is a gender and equity advisor for Tokyo 2020 and works on the Olympic portrayal guidelines, which aim to recognize stereotypes. They also want to adopt fair and balanced portrayal practices, including more airtime for female athletes — something the head of broadcasting for the Olympics says they’re continuously working on.

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“The Olympic Games is an extremely dense event; you have 27 events at one time. So, it’s very important how you strategically place events,” explained Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of Olympic Broadcasting Services.

Strategically-placed events lead to exposure, and when it comes to gender equity, he says it’s all about the narrative.

“You will not see in our coverage some things that you have seen in the past with details, closeups and parts of the body or elements that would speak about sexuality or any other type of stereotyping of gender,” Exarchos said.

“My hope is that we value true sport performances, we have fair media, which portrays athletes as athletes, not as female athletes,” Imoto said.

This week, the German women’s gymnastics team stepped out for qualifiers on Sunday sporting a full-length unitard, instead of the bikini-cut leotards, to take a stand against the sexualization of female athletes.

Despite not being an Olympic sport, Norway’s female beach handball team also made headlines after it was slapped with fines for “improper clothing.” The team opted for shorts over bikinis. Beach handball does require a dress code. Popstar singer Pink offered to pay the fines.

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