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  • Op Ed: Women Still Need Olympics Leadership Breakthrough


    When IOC President Jacques Rogge speaks this weekend at the IOC Women and Sport Conference in Jordan, what are the chances his successor could be in the audience?

    The meeting is held every four years. This year, it is timed to begin March 8, International Women’s Day.

    Hundreds of female sports leaders from around the globe are expected, including the handful of women IOC members who indeed could be in line to lead the committee -- if the men give them the chance.

    Since 1981 when the first two women were named to the IOC, their numbers have grown steadily. They currently number 14 members. But that’s only 13 percent out of the current membership of 110.

    And while the IOC has made sure women are nominated each year for open seats, at this rate it could take a century for a balance between the sexes to take hold on the IOC.

    Despite their disadvantage in numbers, among the handful of women IOC members it is possible to imagine some of them as contenders to become president one day.

    That could be as early as next year if Rogge decides to step down after eight years in office, or 2013 should he run for the additional four years permitted under the rules.

    Anita DeFrantz of the U.S., Nawal El Moutawakel from Morocco and Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden will be among those who may have ambitions to lead the IOC.

    Perhaps more urgent for those seeking a higher place for women in the IOC will be the need to elect another (or two) woman for the ruling Executive Board at the IOC Session in August. Lindberg, the only female on the board, will leave after serving four years as vice president.

    And women still need to make strides for other IOC leadership posts.

    With the exception of the Women and Sport Commission chaired by Anita DeFrantz, men dominate as chairs of the 20 other panels named by the IOC President.

    Nawal El-Moutawakel’s stint in 2004-2005 as chair of the IOC Evaluation Commission for 2012 was the only chink in that wall.

    Outside the membership of the IOC, women are still outnumbered as national Olympic committee presidents. Slight gains have been made in the leadership of international federations, but only two of the 35 summer and winter IFs have women as presidents.

    Bid and organizing committees for Olympic Games have provided groundbreaking opportunities for women, with the Athens Games the first to be led by a woman. Beijing and Vancouver both include females as top executives. The pressure will be on London and Sochi to continue the trend.

    Female executives are part of the teams for the cities bidding for the 2016 Olympics, but only Madrid has seen fit to place a woman at the top rung of the corporate ladder. More often than not, recent successful bids for the Games have included women at the leading edge of the campaign.

    Arguably the most important numbers for women and the Olympics would be the levels of participation at the Olympic Games.

    In Athens, a record 40 percent of the 10,600 credentialed athletes were women. That number that should increase slightly in Beijing, but may drop in London with the elimination of women’s softball.

    For the Winter Games in Turin, the figure was 38 percent, a figure that may not change much for Vancouver. A battle is still being waged over the addition of women’s ski jumping to 2010, but 2014 now seems a more likely start.

    Fortunately for women, their numbers have been improving faster on the field of play than the Olympic boardroom.

    But the loss of women’s softball and the absence of ski jumping shows the challenge the IOC faces as it tries to set an example of equality in a world where inequality remains the rule.

    Op Ed is a weekly column of opinion and ideas from Around the Rings founder and editor-in-chief Ed Hula. Comments, as well as guest columns are welcomed: