Headshot of Dr. Michele K. Donnelly, expert on gender equity in the sports world.

Gender Equity at the Olympics with Dr. Michele K. Donnelly

Release Date: October 19, 2023

The Paris 2024 Olympics will be notable for many reasons, but the International Olympic Committee wants to make sure you know that for the first time in Olympic history, the Games will have gender parity.

But what does that really mean? We talk with Dr. Michele K. Donnelly, assistant professor of sport management at Brock University in Ontario, Canada to get to the heart of the matter. Dr. Donnelly’s research and teaching focuses on three areas: social inequality in sports, including gender equality in the Olympic Movement and at the Olympic Games; Alternative sports and subcultures, including roller derby; and Qualitative research methods. We talked with Dr. Donnelly about the IOC’s excitement over gender equity at Paris 2024 and what that really means.

Find out more about Dr. Donnelly’s research here.

In our Seoul 1988 history moment, Jill looks at the modern pentathlon competition–and how vastly different it was then compared to what we’ll see in Paris next year.

In our Team Keep the Flame Alive Update, we travel to TKFLASTAN to hear from:

We also have absolutely (not) shocking news about the sliding venue for Milan-Cortina 2026, the official list of new sports for LA 2028, and news from the International Olympic Committee’s Session in Mumbai.

Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, keep the flame alive!

Photo courtesy of Dr. Michele K. Donnelly.


Note: This is an uncorrected machine-generated transcript and may contain errors. Please check its accuracy against the audio. Do not quote from the transcript; use the audio as the record of note.

Gender Equity at the Olympics with Dr Michele K Donnelly (Ep 309)

[00:00:00] Jill: Hello and welcome to another episode of Keep the Flame Alive, the podcast for fans of the Olympics and Paralympics. If you love the games, we are the show for you. Each week, we share stories from athletes and people behind the scenes to help you have more fun watching the games. I’m your host, Jill Jaracz, joined as always by my lovely co host, Alison Brown.

Alison, hello. I see you. How are you?

[00:00:48] Alison: Across the table instead of across the country. I am feeling very rejuvenated by California sun.

[00:00:58] Jill: Excellent. We have been here for almost a week, so we spent a few days at the Olympian show and then we did some planning. We have a huge map of Paris on the floor of our Airbnb and marked out where all the venues are.

[00:01:12] Alison: And they are all very far away from each other,

[00:01:14] Jill: right? One of the cool things is for our Olympic hotel, we found out some training venues are right there. So that’s exciting.

[00:01:21] Alison: I may show up at their doorstep.

[00:01:24] Jill: I can’t get into event today. Can I come watch a train?

[00:01:28] Alison: I’m going to go see what you’re doing over there.

[00:01:32] Jill: We met so many new people. Saw so many old friends at Olympian. So that was great. We have some, hopefully some news coming out in a few weeks with some stuff we learned there,

[00:01:44] Alison: lots of people excited about Paris.

[00:01:46] Jill: Oh my gosh, they are so excited about Paris.

[00:01:49] Alison: There were some very fancy schmancy pins flying around.

[00:01:53] Jill: Mm hmm.

Dr. Michele K. Donnelly interview

[00:01:54] Jill: .We have a lot of news today. It’s been a big week. The IOC session happened in Mumbai. So they had some [00:02:00] big announcements with that. And so we’ve got a whole bunch of news, but first we have an excellent interview with Dr. Michelle K. Donnelly. Dr. Donnelly is an assistant professor of sport management at Brock University in Ontario, Canada. Her research and teaching focuses on three areas, social inequality in sports, which includes gender equality in the Olympic movement and at the Olympic Games.

Alternative sports and subcultures, including roller derby and qualitative research methods. We talked to Dr. Donnelly about the IOC’s excitement over gender equity at Paris 2024 and what that really means. Note, our conversation does include a thread about gender makeup of the International Olympic Committee membership.

And there’s actually an update to that this week. So we will talk about that later on in the show. So take a listen to our conversation with Dr. Donnelly.

Dr. Michelle Donnelly, thank you so much for joining us. You do research on gender equity and social inequality in Olympic sport and international sport. Next year is going to be a landmark for the Olympic movement in that for the first time there will be equal number of men and women.

What is that called and why is that important?

[00:03:16] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah the International Olympic Committee, the IOC, is calling it a couple of different things. So they are making claims about this as a gender equality achievement. And then most consistently we are hearing them talk about there will be gender balance at Paris in 2024.

So balance seems to be their terminology for gender parity. What I would understand is that one piece of gender equality that is about numbers. And do you have the same number of men and women? I think the claim is both the same number of men and women athletes and the same number of events for men and women.

[00:03:57] Alison: So we’ve got parity, [00:04:00] equality, equity, and balance. What’s the Difference in more of a technical term between those.

[00:04:07] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah, so a quality is the broader understanding of both numbers, but also for me, I think about it, especially in terms of Olympic sport as the conditions in which the athletes are participating.

And does everybody have kind of the same opportunities as well as, treatment. Once they’re, competing, balance and parity, look at just that one piece of the numbers. And equity is, even beyond that, a more fuller understanding of, not everyone has the same starting line.

So, if you apply an understanding of gender equality to say everybody needs to get to the same place, if you take an equity perspective, then you’re recognizing that that means potentially different treatment, different, things in place for, at this point in time, right, women to get to the same finish line that men are at because of historical.

Right. certainly in sport, historically, fewer resources, opportunities, access, all of that kind of thing.

[00:05:18] Jill: In thinking of terms of equity and parity and balance and all that, when you talk about not starting at the same line, how much of a difference does that make when you’re looking at the finish, , cause I, I feel like the IOC is looking at the finish right now and they don’t necessarily see the start.

[00:05:35] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah. So they’re looking exclusively at what is going to be included at the Olympic games. And that is where they have made their recommendations and exerted some pressure on the International Federations to make specific decisions about what events they are proposing and, applying to have included on the program [00:06:00] as well as how they are using their quotas.

So, I’m not sure how much you all have talked about this previously, but each international federation is allotted an athlete quota. So a certain number of athletes that they are allowed to, have at the Olympic Games. And then the international federations take that quota and they divide it among their various disciplines and then events within those disciplines and between men’s and women’s competitions.

So, the IOC has been exerting pressure to say, this is what we want to see at the games. And it doesn’t at all take into account what’s happening otherwise in those federations in, The three years when there aren’t Olympic games, when, when, you know, it is World Championships and World Cup and all of the much more kind of consistent events and major competitions in those sports.

It also doesn’t take into account the real disparities in, a lot of sports on the Olympic program between the time when men’s sport was added to the games and then the women’s version. in a lot of cases you have a much more recent addition of either an entire sport or events within that sport for women and we know that having a place at the Olympics does influence national funding decisions and the ways that international federations organize their own events.

So, None none of that complexity is being taken into account. So that is, that really is a challenge. I never imagined myself as someone sympathizing with the International Federation. They’re not terribly sympathetic most of the time. But in this regard, they’re being asked to do things within constraints that are [00:08:00] making it impossible for them to, Truly, I think Achieve gender equality, because they are being asked alongside this commitment to foster gender equality.

That was the recommendation in agenda 2020. It sits alongside a recommendation to, uh, Reduce the overall size of the games. So that directly affects the summer games, the caps that have been put on the number of athletes and number of events for the winter games are still a little higher than where we’ve gotten so far, but they really significantly reduce the number of athletes and have resulted in a reduction of the number of events at the summer games.

So they’re being asked to add opportunities for women athletes while taking away opportunities. for athletes overall. And so what we’ve seen then is a pretty, I think, inevitable, certainly without guidance and without any sort of recommendation about how to do that. We’ve seen international federations pretty consistently taking away men’s events, taking away quota places for men athletes in order to add women’s events.

Places for women athletes or in a number of cases, mixed gender events, which doesn’t add any athletes, which. Is a conversation we can definitely have.

[00:09:31] Alison: Okay, before we go there, something you said reminded me of Title IX, which I know is only U. S. specific, so I actually have two questions regarding. So are there similar federal laws in other countries to Title IX?

[00:09:45] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Not in that really specific kind of amendments to the Education Act, right? Like the way that Title IX has been imagined. For example, in Canada, that would simply be under human rights legislation. And we saw the way that the [00:10:00] women’s ski jumpers kind of used that effectively in advance of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games.

What is particularly notable about that is The Canadian human rights court found, yes, this does not meet Canada’s standards for recognizing human rights based on gender to have men’s ski jumping events, but not women’s ski jumping events at the Olympic Games.

However, Canadian human rights legislation cannot be applied to the International Olympic Committee. So, it was a positive finding, but, a toothless finding in the sense of, that autonomy of sport and that autonomy of the International Olympic Committee to operate in a real grey space outside of a sense of who’s.

laws apply? Like, what standards are they held to? So in that sense Not a Title IX specific legislation, but certainly equivalents and then, Title IX gets talked about a lot of times in the context of the U. S. You still hear, you know, a few years ago, the University of Buffalo was eliminating teams and they were still citing Title IX as one of the considerations in terms of eliminating men’s teams where they didn’t have equivalent women’s teams.

But if you look at the Title IX legislation and the very specific Language that’s in place about what are the acceptable ways to come into compliance with Title IX. It says very clearly, you may not remove from the quote unquote over represented sex. In order to demonstrate more equal offerings for men and women, you must add the only way to, again, we know there’s still a lack of compliance with Title IX, we know there are all sorts of issues with [00:12:00] enforcement, because it requires the sitting administration to really invest in the office responsible for it. But that language is there, and that is. Is the piece that’s completely missing from these recommendations that the IOC included in Agenda 2020 and in the way that they seem to be informally enforcing them with the International Federations.

And so when you’ve said you have to offer more for one, and overall we’re actually reducing your total numbers, your quota numbers, your event numbers. I don’t know where else they, they could have gone to achieve that.

[00:12:41] Alison: That was exactly my second question about Title IX is this constant pitting men athletes and women athletes against one another.

And from what you’re saying, the IOC is doing that to the federations and how do the federations deal with that? And how are the federations dealing with it?

[00:13:01] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah. Yeah. So what the IOC has effectively done is create kind of a zero sum game, right? Like you have this many number of athlete places and you have to decide how they’re going to be allotted, like allocated to the different men’s and women’s events.

And don’t forget the goal for Paris, right? the expectation for Paris is that you will have an equal number of men and women. So, we’ve seen, even through Rio, we were seeing potentially 30 or so more athlete quota places for men in rowing. The switch going into Tokyo was, those were gone.

And. They had been applied on the women’s side to bring them up to having the same number of athlete places. One of the most, I think, dramatic and really important to consider cases is shooting. The

International Shooting Federation between

Rio and Tokyo removed three men’s only [00:14:00] events and added three mixed gender events.

So, within an Olympic cycle, athletes who we know, we know the incredible specialization of athletes and forward planning in their careers. So athletes who knew that Tokyo 2020 was their games, had their events eliminated from competition at the Olympic games, and they’re being told.

That is because the IOC is requiring us to, have these balanced numbers going in, and they’re not offering any additional numbers to make that happen. So those events were eliminated and like I said, these mixed gender events were added which means for shooting the addition of three, well, balancing out, so taking three medal events.

Replacing them with three medal events, but three medal events that don’t actually add any athletes to the games. those mixed gender events are contested by a team of one man and one woman who are already qualified in their single gender events. So you maintain that number of medals, that number of events at the Games, which is the hugely contested piece for the International Federations, right?

That’s the ground. They don’t want to give up at the games. In fact, everybody is consistently trying to have more metal events at the games, more presence, right? More visibility at the games. But right, trying to figure out ways to do that without increasing the number of athletes.

And so what’s happening then is More opportunities for the athletes who are already qualified for the games. And more demands on athletes who are already qualified for the games. So, there was a recommendation that World Athletics start to add mixed gender relay events at the games, they’re one of the few federations where I have seen Some pushback, [00:16:00] a little bit of resistance and framed around the way that athletics is organized where athletes in each event are going through potentially multiple rounds before they get to a final.

World Athletics was identifying like this means then if you add a mixed gender relay event that also has potentially heats and a final, that’s multiple additional races. For those same athletes because you’re not bringing in additional athletes for those events So I have a lot of questions about mixed gender events and particularly around, you know First this claim that they’re athlete centered right that all of these decisions are being made in an athlete focused or athlete centered kind of way they sound good, but I’m not sure that they’re actually achieving any of the goals that they’re intended to achieve.

to add mixed gender events was the second sort of strategy that the IOC identified in Agenda 2020 for fostering gender equality. And. I would say through the work that I’ve done, I don’t see that happening.

[00:17:07] Jill: Which is interesting, mixed gender events we find are fun to watch as fans, and we don’t realize how, when you say heat and all of these other things, we Just think of it as, oh, you go out there and run a race. We have no idea, really, what kind of toll it takes on the body. And that’s the kind of fun of doing this show, is that we learn how much that, how much preparation it takes, how much cooling down it takes, how much unwinding, how much relaxation somebody needs to maintain a body at the pace.

peak level and hopefully not get injured, which, mixed gender events also provide more opportunities for injury and could essentially screw you for the event you really want to be there for.

[00:17:50] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yep. Absolutely. And so I think what we’ll see consistently is they’ll happen at the end of the single gender events.

We just saw that at the Athletics World Championships, [00:18:00] right? Like, it’s going to be among the culminating events, typically. So there’s that piece of it. And then there are also, some questions, we hear some questions about the legitimacy of mixed gender events, because they’re being in a lot of cases, invented right now, in order to respond to the IOC’s recommendation and pressure.

so outside of things like mixed doubles tennis, right, that it has. A long history. They’re new. And for example, in the case of triathlon, they look incredibly different than the event that athletes are training regularly for. So the mixed gender relay and triathlon is a. A relay in kind of a sprint version of triathlon, so much shorter distances that makes it more feasible on so many levels, right?

Like if you tried to string together four consecutive triathlons, that would be an Ironman in itself, right? So what they’ve done is they’ve really shortened the distances Which then means the athletes are training for their traditional event, right? their ongoing single gender event alongside this completely new event that Presumably has some different strategies and some different kinds of ways that you would approach it because it is happening over Significantly shorter distances so, it’s interesting because In the information that we have, which is largely from either the International Federations or the IOC in terms of press releases or promotion of these mixed gender events, athletes are speaking incredibly positively about them.

They’re finding them really like fun to participate in, in an event like triathlon where there is no. There’s no single gender, really. So this is the only time, right, that the athletes are really getting that, that teamy, like full team kind of sense of participating and they’re really [00:20:00] enjoying it, which is great.

But yeah, like it’s important to consider what are the demands and especially within. the two weeks of the Olympic Games, right? There’s not an opportunity to spread this out. So we’re consistently asking athletes to bear the brunt of addressing these historical inequalities that they themselves had no part in establishing.

[00:20:26] Jill: Do you think the novelty of mixed gender events will fade? Once they’ve been around for a little bit and athletes realize the demand , well they I guess it’s just the having the mixed gender event like, Oh, I get to go for two medals now.

That’s cool. And then all of a sudden like, Oh, I can’t go and compete at the next couple of events. Cause my body’s crashed out because the Olympics just kind of gets thrown into a cycle.

[00:20:54] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah, exactly. I’m not sure. I’m not sure what we’ll see from athletes. I mean, so far, I don’t have any sense of resistance on the part of athletes to being put into the mixed gender events.

Like you said, I mean, it’s an opportunity for another medal, which based on how we know that funding and, compensation for medals happens, like, Yeah, great. Of course. I mean, one of the things that I really noticed based on the mixed gender event, so both the mixed gender medley relay in the pool, and the four by four on the track.

They are interesting because The mixed gender relay that I would say starts the trend of mixed gender relay events is in biathlon at the Winter Olympics. And that is an event that initially the International Biathlon Union had specified. Your two women will go first and second.

And then the men will go third and fourth and, there were all sorts of issues with that, especially around, [00:22:00] that means the man is always crossing the finish line and winning the event for his team which challenges maybe some of those ideas of how these events should be contributing to a sense of gender equality and seeing athletes competing together it also until Beijing the women still skied the women’s distance.

So, um, in biathlon and the men skied the men’s distance, so they didn’t even actually ski The same legs, so that has now changed and certainly on the World Cup circuit now the International Biathlon Union has recognized the issue around who starts, who finishes and so it alternates.

between World Cup events having the women start and then at the next event the men start. I’m not sure what that will mean for the games. If that will be implemented on an Olympic cycle, or if we will always see the same thing at the games. When we saw the mixed gender relays added at the summer games.

There was no direction about who goes where, how you place your athletes. In the pool, it’s very much about the order of strokes that happens in a medley relay, so who you have swimming each stroke. In the pool and on the track. So much of the coverage, the media coverage of these events was focused on gender order as a strategic decision and discussed in terms of basically how do teams plan the order of their athletes in order to accommodate for women’s slower times, right?

So it’s this event that we’re being told. Simply having this event is going to increase gender equality at the Games. And then, what has actually happened is an introduction of different ways of emphasizing gender inequality in the way that we look at and, assess these events.

[00:24:00] So, I’m still left with a lot of questions about how mixed gender events are supposed to be contributing to gender equality. Again, for a very long time, right up until around 2020, I would say, if you looked at the IOC’s Women in the Olympic Games document that is regularly updated, they…

Have a chart that they offer and in that chart they tell you like there’s the year of each of the summer or winter Olympic Games The number of women athletes the percentage of the total athletes that they comprise the number of women’s events and then the number of right like the proportion of total events that the women’s events comprised and Up until around 2020, there was an asterisk on the number of women’s events.

And that was that it also included mixed gender events and open events. So they were counting all of the events in Equestrian as an open event. All of the sailing events that were mixed gender or open, they were counting them exclusively on the women’s side as women’s events. So they were really artificially boosting, uh, the appearance of the number of women’s events.

Now we get a chart that shows women’s events and mixed gender events in the gender equality or in that women in the Olympic Games looking at those overall numbers. So, I think that is an important distinction now that they’re making. But my sense of promoting mixed gender events as a tool or as a strategy to achieve gender equality still ties into that perception of we can count them on the women’s side.

[00:25:49] Alison: So you’re breaking my heart a little bit, Michelle. I am a fan of, some mixed gender events. I love the track relays. And the reason I love them [00:26:00] is because It’s presenting men and women on the field of play together and working as a team and presenting them on equal footing. And you’re saying that’s not how it’s being perceived, that they’re not being perceived as equal athletes, that it’s being presented as men are pulling these weaker women along.

[00:26:19] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Certainly that seems to be part of the discussion in the media coverage is this new consideration of how you order your athletes. It’s based on gender as a strategic decision in putting your team on the track. the first time they ran the mixed gender four by four at the World Athletics Championships.

I believe if I’m remembering correctly, it was Poland who. Was the only team that decided to run their two men first and achieved They had built up so much distance on the rest of the field that it really looked like they could potentially Win it simply based on half right like that advantage that they’d built up on the first two legs I agree with you Alison.

I think they’re fun to watch. I think it’s It’s so fun to watch the athlete. I mean, I love any relay event watching the athletes go out in these, predominantly individual events and you get to see that teaminess of you get to see them together. You get to see them interacting with each other in ways that are more limited in the individual events, unless you have, Multiple athletes from one country, and then that’s always at the finish line, not at the start line, right?

So I agree. I think that there’s so much potential there and I think that it may be some training and expectations that get put in place, the IOC has prepared its media guidelines, related to gender equality and, gender representation. it may be around that, like the story to be told is how each of these athletes is contributing to the overall team [00:28:00] performance and getting away from.

That really old, and what I think is boring, kind of, within a team, pitting the men and women against each other in terms of how much have you contributed. I think it’s not useful. It’s not, and it really does affect the possibility of these events being seen as one way to bring a form of gender equality to the games.

[00:28:30] Alison: How does this play out internationally? Because there are teams who send Almost no women, and does that mean that a team like the US or Canada or GB then becomes disproportionate to meet these quotas so that these opportunities are not getting spread equally around?

[00:28:50] Dr. Michele Donnelly: So, one of the interesting cases that’s been made, because so many of the mixed gender events are

Smaller version of, the single gender event. I’m not sure that I’m picking up any summer examples just yet. But for example, mixed gender curling, it’s not four athletes, it’s two athletes, right? It’s one man and one woman. , so the International Curling Federation left it to the National Federations to decide whether or not athletes could be part of their country’s single gender team and mixed gender team.

So in that way, certainly the case is being made for additional opportunities for nations that send smaller teams. Because you’re not having to put together a team of four. If you have two, you can put together a team of Two curlers, one man and one woman, where you might not actually be able to put together a team of four men and a team of four women.

So, there is some discussion about how it’s offering opportunities in those ways. Again, in shooting, right, the mixed gender events are two athletes. So, you may [00:30:00] not be able to put together a complement that would be, the traditional single gender team event, but as long as you have one man and one woman at the games in the same shooting discipline, right, you can put them together and then you have an entry into an additional event at the games.

So there is discussion that way because those events are simply taking from, The already existing athlete compliment, they’re not adding anybody with the exception of, and I’m sure there have been a few exceptions here and there, at Sochi in 2014 when we first saw the mixed team event in figure skating, Great Britain was allowed to send a singles man skater who had not qualified in the Men singles in order to make a team for themselves, so that was the addition of a mixed gender event that only benefited a man.

As having an additional opportunity at the games, which is not the way I don’t think that that was envisioned going. So, yeah, I mean there are a number of issues and that argument is being made that this does potentially provide more competitive opportunities, more medal opportunities for countries that send overall smaller teams to the games.

[00:31:18] Alison: How does this affect money? Because that’s really the question for athletes. Are women. getting more money from their federations with these additional Olympic opportunities?

[00:31:29] Dr. Michele Donnelly: That’s a very good question. I mean, the way that the events are organized right now wouldn’t be exclusively women getting more money because each of these mixed gender events is an additional opportunity for one or more women and one or more men.

So it certainly wouldn’t be working, I don’t think, to close any gaps that might exist. It would simply be… Adding on to them, right? So maintaining them, but at a higher level, yeah, it has been interesting to [00:32:00] see, right? Like, it’s been hard for anybody to invest, the IOC approved slate of athletics events for Paris.

2024 that included, uh, to be decided mixed gender race walking event. So again, around kind of the, the perceived legitimacy of those events, right? Will they always be perceived by a segment of the community of their sport community as purely novelty, something that we have put together to appease the IOC rather than an event that we are invested in as culturally significant for our sport.

And when you see that right within again within an Olympic cycle, like now we have to. invent this event and have it run that competition so that people can qualify for it at the Olympic Games. And that was to take away. The longer men’s race walk that there wasn’t an equivalent women’s event for instead of just adding one Longer women’s race walk event.

[00:33:11] Jill: It’s interesting that you bring that up because one of our fellow Shukla Stanis is Evan Dunfee race walker for Canada who has really had to work over this cycle Because he specializes in the 50k and now has had to work very hard to become what he calls a sprinter. Just to accommodate this.

And he was really frustrated that the women didn’t get the longer event just to , make it equal that way. But it’s interesting that they’ve got to make this up.

[00:33:38] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah. And the women have been competing in the longer event at the world championships, I think for a few years now. So it’s, it’s not that they’re.

aren’t women in that event. It is truly, uh, or certainly my perception is that this is a numbers game. We’re gonna get rid of that event, right, that only men do. We’re gonna replace it with an event so we maintain [00:34:00] a medal event but we don’t send any additional athletes to the games because the quotas are going down.

So that event will be contested exclusively by Men and women who have qualified for their single gender competition.

[00:34:14] Alison: Are we seeing this really make a difference to teams who don’t normally send women? Or historically have not sent women, are we seeing, and I hate to name names, but I’m going to name names, you know,

Saudi Arabia or a lot, not just Middle Eastern, but even South American countries, you know, lots of countries who send one woman and 10 men.

Are we seeing those numbers shift at all?

[00:34:42] Dr. Michele Donnelly: That’s a good question. I don’t know that we have enough. Time yet to be able to assess that if it’s really going to change much that’s another claim that if we look at critically so at London in 2012 the big claims were there were more women athletes than ever before.

Women competed in every sport on the Olympic program for the first time with the addition of events in women’s boxing. And there were women on every team, or every nation sent women. The first one is true, absolutely. There were, numbers wise, more women athletes, and they made up a higher percentage of the overall athletes than at any previous summer games.

Women did compete in every sport. With the caveat, so, there were three weight categories for women in boxing. There continued to be ten weight categories for men in boxing. Women , still don’t compete in Greco Roman wrestling. Yes, women compete in wrestling, but they only compete in freestyle, where men compete in both freestyle and Greco Roman.

So, there are kind of those differences. And then, really, the celebration was at Brunei, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia. Women to London there were I think it’s about six countries [00:36:00] that sent only men very small teams, right and Arguably in a lot of cases where they only had men qualify, right? They only had so that kind of thing and then Bhutan for at least London and Rio Has sent teams comprised exclusively of women to women athletes to both London and Rio.

it is so important and why I’m so excited to be having this conversation with you. It’s so important to critically assess the claims that the IOC makes around its gender equality achievements because they are spun in unsurprisingly, right? The way that makes them look best. But they’re consistently doing this in a way that ignores so much of the complexity.

So one of the things that we’ve seen happen in this reduction of athlete quota numbers. Rio, Tokyo were both almost 11, 500 athletes. And for Paris is the first time that we’re going to see really the enforcement of 10, 500 athlete accreditation places. That’s a huge number of spots.

It’s to lose, right? And part of the reduction then is in the universality places that particularly swimming and athletics have offered in the past. Those are I like to think of them as the Olympic wildcard places, those are the places that have been offered in the interest of spreading Olympism, right, so where athletes have been able to compete at the games, even where they haven’t met the qualifying standard in their career.

So, Event so the standards set by their international federation. I don’t know if your audience will recall but at Sydney back in 2000 we saw Eddie the eel[00:38:00] the African Asian athlete in the pool who had actually never been in an Olympic sized pool previously. They’re the feel good, but also questionable, cases that have happened at the Games.

And that would have been Saudi Arabia’s Judoka athlete that they sent to the London Games. would have been in one of those places she didn’t have an international ranking she’d not qualified through the typical pathway to compete at the games, she was in one of those universality places.

So, in terms of that idea of using those places to, win over people in more countries to being, fans and having an investment in the Olympic Games. That’s another place where the cuts have been made to get down to that ten thousand five hundred number.

[00:38:51] Jill: This may open a can of worms, but I also thought of…

When you think of countries and gender, there’s also the wrinkle of athletes who change nationality in order to compete for the Olympics. , I mean, I don’t even know if we’re able to see if countries and the IOC uses that ability as a positive of, oh, here, look at the country representation. Nevermind the fact that your women athletes or most of your athletes live in another country 99 percent of the time.

[00:39:25] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Again, I’m not entirely sure about that. So I think there’s a distinction there. There’s the true changing nationality, which we’ve seen, a number of countries, Saudi Arabia and others, who have offered citizenship to African nation athletes, particularly in track and field who now are citizens of their country, The country that they’re competing for and World Athletics, so that’s an International Federation policy level decision.

They have cracked down a [00:40:00] little on what that looks like and the length of time that athletes need to be between competing for one country and competing for another country. So there’s that, and then there’s the big piece that we see. At both the summer and especially I would say the winter games around athletes who are able to claim multiple.

nationalities, right, and can be recognized by their parents country of origin or grandparents country of origin, right, and are eligible to compete for national teams in that way. so there absolutely are questions about, right, like, , how does this then encourage more opportunities for North American based athletes, especially, right, to compete for other countries rather than, really doing what I would say I think is the intended purpose of these events are now at the Olympic Games.

Therefore, your nation should be investing in a development system to get athletes to the games rather than relying on. development systems that exist in other places that then you can, have athletes compete on your behalf.

[00:41:07] Alison: How does this play out on the officials and administration side, are we seeing more women as the game officials and making the big decisions?

[00:41:19] Dr. Michele Donnelly: So, yeah what we have seen, there is a push now. The IOC has going into Paris really, again, encourage their recommendations around having more women in coaching positions, especially. Thank you. I haven’t seen the same concerted push on the officiating side technical officials, right, judges, referees, whatever it is and again, we’re starting in that Recommendation phase, which nothing about the evidence that we have so far would suggest that recommendations on which are unenforceable, right?

There’s no kind of consequences of not meeting them that they’re [00:42:00] truly the most effective way to start these processes. So, there have been a few events. Hosted by different international federations or by the IOC around increased opportunities for women coaches. But I’m not sure that we will see kind of significant differences at Paris.

And I would say, especially if we are focused on head coaching positions.

[00:42:23] Alison: We’ve got one female only sport left. In the summer Olympics, because now we’re allowing men into the pool for artistic swimming. So now just rhythmic gymnastics. Is there an equal push kind of the other way for gender equity on these women’s sports?

[00:42:41] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Consistently, it seems like we hold women’s sports to a higher standard in terms of being inclusive. Jill, in my experience in roller derby, I would say, evidence of that we’re really I don’t know, for some reason more uncomfortable with women only sports than we are with men only sports. I haven’t seen the, faction arguing for women’s involvement in Greco Roman wrestling yet so yeah, I mean, there seems to be some strangeness around senses of obligation to be more inclusive.

I don’t know if we’re going to ask to be involved in other people’s sport, like even then we need to, role model that and I don’t, have you seen mixed gender artistic swimming? Yes. Okay. So it is my perception so far. I think what we’re going to see is that technically artistic swimming is now open.

You could have a man on your team. And that’s a distinction that I think is really important. The open events, like the equestrian events, what I think is going to be happening in artistic swimming. There’s no requirement then. that you have men or women participating, right? Whereas the mixed gender events dictate very [00:44:00] specifically this number and this number, right?

Of men and women participating. The little that I have seen of the mixed gender event in Artistic swimming is to me, as not an artistic swimmer, it looks like putting pairs figure skating in the pool. what seems to be happening is a lot of man lifting the woman, man, right, like that kind of very gendered distinction in their roles.

Whereas we know that’s not necessary in artistic swimming when we see. Women only teams, they’re lifting each other, right? Like, it’s, the skill set is there. There is no reason to go to this very stereotypically gendered kind of relation between athletes in the pool, simply because you have men and women identifying athletes in the pool.

So I think, that will be really interesting. And I think another case of Is mixed gender doing what we think it was intended to do, or is it just so easy to replicate already existing both inequalities and these real gender distinctions in role?

[00:45:14] Alison: Do you know the IOC membership?

[00:45:18] Dr. Michele Donnelly: So it updates pretty regularly.

are they at 40 percent women yet? I really don’t know. I have to look it up.

They do advertise it on a regular basis. We’re either high 30s or I think actually into 40s now for women members of the IOC. This is another place where their numbers just need checking because they have been advertising now for, I think, a couple of years.

Equal gender representation, so gender balance on the IOC committees. Great. But that consistently goes along with the lesser number of women on the [00:46:00] IOC, like as IOC members overall. And they celebrate this. We’ve gotten to equal representation on committees. But the math of that is, the fewer women IOC members are being asked to do more work to achieve that parity in committee.

[00:46:20] Alison: Does that then weaken their voice on the committees because they’re spread so thin?

[00:46:26] Dr. Michele Donnelly: And why should they have to do more work? Just bottom line, why should being a woman IOC member come with more work than being a man? So I think, that kind of thing where They celebrate, they promote, we’ve gotten to this number.

What it means is that the condition, the experience of being an IC member is different if you are a man or a woman. So, those things really need attention. And we’ve seen pretty dramatic improvements. But not there yet and some real attempts to what I would suggest to celebrate a little early. Yeah. I mean, I still, I’m still a bit reeling from 48. 8 percent women at Tokyo being.

Declared gender equality, you know, when you’re talking about over 11, 000 athletes that, well,

[00:47:31] Jill: you know, if you looked at it for what women get paid to compare to what men get paid, I guess you got equality there,

[00:47:37] Dr. Michele Donnelly: it probably costs less, exactly. but that one point, whatever, percent of athletes, that’s a big number of athletes, that’s not equality.

And that’s not even going into somehow we haven’t even gotten here yet. But when men and women athletes are competing in a lot of the same sports and events. [00:48:00] the conditions of their competition is different. So whether it’s different requirements around uniforms the rules of the game, right? The rules of the sport they’re playing, the size of the venue that they’re in, or the size, weight, spacing of equipment that they use.

There’s still a lot of really gendered differences that I would suggest continue to be inequalities because in every case where there are differences, Women race over a shorter distance. When there are distances in equipment, women’s equipment is lighter, smaller, right? Shorter. And it really, that discussion is incredibly revealing of these internal contradictions on the Olympic program.

Because if there is a biological, physiological reason for those differences, Presumably we would see them across all sports, and we do not. So, in arguably some of the most demanding, certainly the longest, right? Or the sports or events on the program. I mean triathlon, men and women compete over the same distances.

Marathon. Same distance. Open water swim. Same distance. But for some reason in road cycling, women compete over quite a significantly shorter distance than the men. So, there are all sorts of questions about, why? Why do these differences continue? Are they necessary for athlete performance? And what is the…

solution to address them. So on the track, you have 100 m hurdles for women, 110 m hurdles for men, both compete in a 400 m hurdle event, but the men’s hurdles are so much higher than the women’s hurdles, like ridiculously high. And what you see among the athletes and every time I talk about this with [00:50:00] people or give a presentation, I always get a question about, but men on average are taller than women.

So doesn’t that just make sense? But when you look at who hurdles in men’s hurdling and women’s hurdling, you see a greater diversity in height. And to a lesser extent among high performance athletes, kind of body type in women’s hurdles. In men’s hurdles, you do have to be tall to hurdle because the hurdle is so high.

And then you get into who’s doing these events because of the requirements that are already in place, because of the equipment, right, that is required versus. Did this play out because on average men were so much taller than women, right? It does, that doesn’t seem to fly. And what you could do is you could have a high hurdles and a low hurdles event for both men and women, right?

That would be a way of kind of achieving equality. Because otherwise what we’re looking at is trying to, probably in the case of hurdles, there would be some meeting in the middle. Um, having the women’s hurdle come up higher and the men’s hurdle come lower, if you were going to say everybody must use the same height of hurdle.

And then, It is only athletes who are affected by that, right? It’s only athletes who have to adjust to that change in their sport. And I think Whatever we’re doing to address these continued differences and inequalities has to be in consultation with athletes and experts who have that biomechanical and physiological expertise as well as, a sociocultural perspective to make decisions that are best for the athletes.

And what we don’t want to do is consistently say, well, of course the men’s. Distance equipment, whatever, will remain the standard and women must move to that, [00:52:00] right? We need to look at what makes the most sense for athletes. We need to look at whether or not there are opportunities in more sports, like there are in some of the skiing events where the length of your skis…

Sort of the requirements around the length of your skis is related to the height of the athlete. Does it make sense in more different events to have the equipment you use be determined by the athlete’s size and not a blanket determination of all men will use this and all women will use something different?

That requires some review, and it requires, I believe strongly that those decisions then, when they’re made, get introduced at the youth level within the sport, and then athletes will come through their entire career competing in that way. Rather than asking athletes mid competitive career to make changes to the ways that they’re competing, because they’re, that will never be fair.

[00:53:02] Jill: Have you been paying attention to modern pentathlon and them adding the obstacle course? Because did you see just what happened, the disparity among men and women being able to complete this course? Oh,

[00:53:14] Dr. Michele Donnelly: I hadn’t even considered that. But yeah,

[00:53:16] Jill: that’s Somebody, , they looked at how many people, cause they just had a world cup or junior world championships or something with the obstacle course.

And they really looked at how many men versus how many women could finish. I have a feeling it’s the same obstacle

[00:53:32] Dr. Michele Donnelly: course. And completely predictable, right? Like we know. From American ninja warrior, right? We know physiologically as well. And again, as a sociologist, there’s always a, social conditioning piece, I think, but, you know, around upper body strength.

And so, so many of those obstacle course pieces, right. Really emphasize upper body strength. And, that is going to be a disadvantage to women athletes. I [00:54:00] think until we start treating girls differently and having, more opportunities for girls to do a wider variety of different sports.

But yeah, I’m not surprised. And I mean, modern pentathlon is its own dumpster fire. We’ll do another show on that. Yeah. So you actually

[00:54:21] Alison: segued me for the question I really wanted to ask. Are we seeing, I mean, let’s not discount that. There is improvements, opportunities for women and are we seeing the numbers increasing in the Olympics having a trickle down effect to the number of girls being supported financially?

And having those opportunities at the youth level, at more sports earlier.

[00:54:47] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Not yet. Not yet. I think unfortunately what we’ve seen in youth sport, certainly across North America is that it is becoming increasingly exclusive increasingly inaccessible unless you have the resources to be able to.

pay for year round competition, to pay a club membership to pay for, you know, a strength and conditioning coach, all of these expectations. That’s what seems to be trickling down the almost professionalization that, early specialization, which we know isn’t good. Like we research shows we know in the countries where it’s not happening that we can see success at the high performance levels.

Sometimes even greater success. so I think, that then goes into that larger context of. Some really significant problems in youth sport right now in the way that it’s being offered. And when you are required as a family to make those major investments of money and time into youth [00:56:00] sport, when you don’t see, And I mean, I think this is a really problematic viewpoint, but you don’t see opportunities for scholarships and or professional play in the future where there is that, sense of recouping your costs, right?

At some point you’re not going to see the same investment and where there are fewer opportunities for women in professional sport, that’s going to continue to influence I think decision making at youth sport levels, even where we might see increased parity in Olympic competition.

[00:56:35] Jill: That kind of ties into what we’ve touched on a little bit throughout in the legitimacy of some women’s events. At seeing at the Olympics and what made me really think about that was skateboarding at Tokyo, where the number of women involved and the age of women involved was so much different than the men’s side.

Are we still going to see this? Trickle down from the IOC make it work and you not having the base at the federation level Maybe because you know a lot of federations don’t have a ton of money To be able to bring up women’s sports so that it’s even seen in a parody level

[00:57:14] Dr. Michele Donnelly: Yeah, I think it’s so

Cyclical in a sense. I think if the IOC doesn’t make those commitments and say it’s going to be there, it’s going to be visible, it’s going to have men’s skateboarding, we’re going to have women’s skateboarding, right, and they’re going to look the same, largely, then there is no incentive at the National Federation level to invest.

It is hard to assess men’s versus women’s in that regard because of that longer history of so many of the sports. For a while the IOC when they were looking at adding new sports to the Olympic program had detailed requirements about, it’s from the early 90s that they say only sports that have both men’s and women’s competition will be [00:58:00] added and then from there they detailed, men must be playing in the Olympic contest.

X number of countries have had, so many world championships, that kind of thing. And then on the women’s side, there were also numbers, like, expectations there, but the numbers were lower. But they were arguably not lower than a lot of the men’s sports that already have a place on the Olympic program.

So, it’s… In doing those kinds of assessments and trying to make them sort of, objective or certainly measurable in those ways, you know, I think there is still some challenges. It’s there. So I would say largely I’m supportive of, you know, if they’re adding a sport right now, just wholesale, it has to have men’s and women’s competitions. So there will be places for men and women. It looks like moving forward, there will be an equal number of places for men and women.

We didn’t see that initially in some of the freestyle snowboarding events and BMX events now. It’s the same number for men and women. The arguments for those differences would have been about, You have more men competing overall, fewer women. So it makes sense to reflect that in the Olympic numbers.

But I think, for me, the big things are around really asking athletes to bear the brunt of, to be punished for basically in their experience in order to address these historical inequalities. That they have nothing to do with, and I think it really would have been much more beneficial for the IOC to say gender equality is a commitment to recognize that there would be a few Olympic cycles of, A larger games because we need to add events and we need to add opportunities for women and then, potentially once we’ve achieved that, we’ll look at the overall size of the games and [01:00:00] how to then in a more equal way, reduce the size of the games.

And I mean, I think there are things around looking at what they ask for from host cities, right? The investments, the investments are not.

It’s not those extra thousand athletes, number of events, I think, that makes the game so unwieldy and so unappealing to host, I think. I think there are a lot of other places they could be looking at to… make the games more manageable.

[01:00:33] Alison: I want to end on a hopeful note. So what makes you excited about when they are talking about parity and equity and Paris and moving forward, where do you feel like the achievements have been made and should be

[01:00:48] Dr. Michele Donnelly: acknowledged?

again, I think it is so important to acknowledge Recognize where the improvements have been made and to do that in ways that are very clearly continuing the conversation and not in the ways that we so often hear the kind of we’ve arrived ways, right? And so. There’s nothing left to do. I think where I’m most excited and also

in cautious ways is the work that we’re seeing women athletes do to advocate for themselves, their events and their sports at the Olympic Games. , I don’t believe that we would have women’s ski jumping if it wasn’t for the women’s ski jumpers coming together and making that concerted effort to be added to the games.

We wouldn’t have seen women canoeists at Tokyo for the first time if the women canoeists had not been advocating for the inclusion of their events at the games. And I think that that is So important to recognize that work that athletes are doing because it’s on [01:02:00] top of being full time athlete. And so I’m hopeful and I’m hopeful that athletes will be in a place that they don’t have to do that work, that they get to just be athletes.

They get to, just have that focus on their sport and the time that they’re in it. But I think it has been really Notable to see and important to recognize that work that’s been done by athletes themselves and their supporters within their sports, not saying this is exclusively athletes, but where there has been that advocacy, and I think it’s part of a larger.

Shift in women’s sport at high performance levels overall to, force these conversations and force some different decisions in their sports.


[01:02:52] Jill: Dr. Donnelly, thank you so much for taking the time to be with us and giving us a lot of food for thought.


Thank you so much, Doctor Donnelly. You can learn more about her work at her Brock University faculty page and we will have a link to that in the show notes. Do not forget that Book Club is coming up and we are reading Speed Kings by Andy Bull. It is on the Bob sledding competition at the 1932 Winter Olympics.

You can get your copy and support the show through our bookshop. org storefront. That’s bookshop. org slash shop slash Flame Alive Pod.

Seoul 1988 History Moment

[01:03:27] Jill: That some means it is time for our history moment.

All year long we have been focusing on Sol 1988 as it is the 35th anniversary of those games. It is my turn for a story and because We had the sport program for LA 2028 finalized. I wanted to talk about modern pentathlon because it was on the bubble and modern pentathlon had a lot of controversy in the last three years because of the horse riding disaster at Tokyo [01:04:00] 2020.

And then the subsequent change of what the sport will be for 2028, but modern pentathlon has changed so much since its original introduction in Stockholm, 1912. So in 1988, this was the first time writing was show jumping. What was it before? It was a steeplechase course that took eight, six, eight to ten minutes to finish.

Yes, so they were on a steeplechase before. And now they, now we’ve finally moved it into an arena. And this was also very different in that it was a five day competition. At Paris, there will be a, there’s this fencing ranking round where everybody fences each other. And that’s one day. But the rest of the competition is supposed to take place within 90 minutes The way it went in Seoul first you had horseback riding 600 meters over 15 obstacles. Then they had fencing, which is the same as they currently do. This one point bout between all competitors. Swimming was doing 300 meters in three minutes, 54 seconds. Now it’s a shorter swim. It’s only 200 meters. And then they had shooting. Shooting was 20 shots from a 22 caliber pistol at a rotating target that was 25 meters away.

The shooters had to keep their arms at a 45 degree angle until the target rotated to face them.

[01:05:19] Alison: My arm hurts just thinking about that.

[01:05:22] Jill: Right? And then the last day of competition was a 2. 5 mile run, which is now shooting and running or combining to a laser run. So very, very different competition. The other difference was that there were both individual and team medals.

And the team competition was just the individual scores combined. So you didn’t have two different competitions. You just got the opportunity to win another medal, which is in a way, it’s kind of weird.

[01:05:50] Alison: Because it’s part of the competition, but

[01:05:53] Jill: not. the one caveat was that every score counted. So you’d know throwing away [01:06:00] some bad scores that sometimes you’d get in a team competition. If you had a bad event, it could have sunk you. For Seoul 1988, we were looking at Hungary bringing back its dominance.

Eastern Europe had faded as powerhouses in the seventies, early eighties. Now they were back and defeated defending gold medalists. Italy and in the individual competition, Janos Martnek of Hungary beat Karo Masulo of Italy. Martnek was kind of an unknown in the sport with not much international experience before Seoul. he took the lead after two events, had a dismal shooting round. In which he placed forty fifth out of sixty five competitors that put him in third place going into the final day, but he and Masulu had good runs and they finished gold and silver.

They had both passed Soviet Vako , Iagor Shvili, who was leading and had to settle for the Browns. The other Hungarians on the team finished fourth and seventh. That tied up the gold medal for Hungary in the team. Italy was second. Great Britain was third. Not the Soviets because The other two teammates had bad days.

They finished 20th and 35th, sunk their chances for a medal. Two doping incidences at Seoul. Were there horses involved? No. Oh, good. The first was Jorge Casada from it. Spain. He was disqualified for a beta blocker. The second was Australian Alex Watson, who was disqualified for excessive caffeine.

Oh, that could be a problem. Right? He managed to clear his name eventually. because the testing procedure was determined to be inaccurate and cleared his name by the time Barcelona came around so he could compete at Barcelona. He did manage the competition at Sydney 2000 and eventually became an executive board member at the Modern Pentathlon Federation.

[01:07:50] Alison: And probably has a lovely coffee maker in his office.

[01:07:55] Jill: One of the other notable competitors of USA, Rob [01:08:00] Stull, who qualified for and competed in both modern pentathlon and fencing at Seoul. He was getting revenge for 1984 when he tried to get to the games and fencing. He had gotten third in trials.

And so he qualified, but there were charges that friends of his had thrown so that Stull could get. To the Olympics, so he got demoted to alternate and even though he was exonerated before LA He was not allowed to compete and when the US won silver He did not get a medal because he was the alternate

[01:08:32] Alison: Well, we were talking last week about that whole issue of bout dumping in fencing so 84 seemed to have been the epicenter of bout dumping

[01:08:43] Jill: and Up to 1988, only 34 U.

  1. athletes had qualified in different sports for the games. And the last one previous to Stahl was modern pentathlete and fencer Bob Neiman, who had qualified for two sports in 1980, could not compete because of the boycott. Neiman had competed at Montreal 1976 and had been a medal contender in 1980. He managed to qualify for Seoul.

And finished 18th just before his 41st birthday. Nice! Oh man,

[01:09:16] Alison: look!

TKFLASTAN Update – Team Keep the Flame Alive

[01:09:17] Alison: Shookflastan.

[01:09:28] Jill: Now is the time of the show where we check in with our team Keep the Flame Alive. These are past guests and listeners of the show who make up our citizenship of our very own country, Shookflastan. This is exciting for

[01:09:40] Alison: you. I know. Chuck Aoki will be competing with Team USA at the International Wheelchair Rugby World Cup in Paris, October 28th, October 18th to the 21st.

And then the following week, we’ll be heading down to the Parapan Games.

[01:09:58] Jill: beach volleyball player, Betsi Flint, with [01:10:00] partner Julia Scholes, finished ninth at the Beach Volleyball World Championships.

Kelly Chang, with partner Sarah Hughes, won, beating last year’s world champs Ana Patricia Ramos and Duda Lisboa from Brazil.

[01:10:12] Alison: Anika Malasinski won the national title in Women’s Nordic Combined in Lake Placid.

[01:10:18] Jill: If you are planning to watch the Pan Am games and stream them commentator Oli Hogben will be there commentating mostly football, but he says he’s going to have some other stuff thrown in.

So you might hear him on your screens.

[01:10:32] Alison: Team Schuster is competing in the Hearing Life Tour Challenge. 0 and the tournament goes through October 22nd

Milan-Cortina 2026 News

[01:10:42] Jill: Buongiorno who saw this coming? What a shocker. It is official. The sliding track at Cortina will not be built. Sliding will have to move to another country. And this is

[01:10:58] Alison: the first time. That a Winter Games will take place in two countries, that you’ll have an event outside of the host country.

[01:11:07] Jill: And you know who else proposed this? Me. And Sweden. Well, no, I mean like proposing having a Winter Games in two countries. Sweden, who was sensible. And did not drag us along and string us along like Italy did. Well, I’m glad

[01:11:21] Alison: you brought it up because people are really getting tired of me banging the

[01:11:25] Jill: Stockholm drum.

Yes, so this came up at the IOC session in the report

[01:11:31] Alison: It’s a good decision, it’s the right decision, it’s financially sensible, it is I think good for the athletes because you won’t have an untested track. Coming up and possibly being quite unsafe. We’re going to end up probably either at Maritz. Two very beloved tracks on the circuit.

I think in the end we’re going to be okay.

[01:11:56] Jill: Yes. And it still is going to cost some money, not [01:12:00] as much money as buying a full track, but there will be costs involved because they’re probably going to be some maintenance and a little bit of upgrading to make it of caliber for an Olympic games.

LA 2028 News

[01:12:09] Jill: Big news from LA 2028. So

[01:12:14] Alison: the five sports that we talked about last week have been approved of officially.

[01:12:19] Jill: So we have three returning sports to the games. That would be cricket, although this will be the T20 format. It’ll be a little bit different. Last time cricket was in the games was 1900, so they are thrilled to be back in.

1900 tournament, if you want to call it that, it was just Great Britain versus France.

[01:12:37] Alison: I was going to say, , did they even know they were in the Olympics?

[01:12:41] Jill: Who knows? Who knows? Also coming back is lacrosse. Lacrosse was at 1904 and 1908, and then it was a demonstration sport at 1928, 32 and 48. it’s had some experience at the game, has been trying to get back in for a long time.

They’re excited, especially given that it’s an indigenous sport to this area of the world.

Also coming back, you were excited. Baseball, softball,

[01:13:05] Alison: softball. As long as we get my softball in

[01:13:07] Jill: there. Right? We know that this was last at Tokyo 2020. Baseball was first added to the games in 1992. Softball was first in in 1996 and both were off after 2008. And then we have two new sports. We have flag football.


[01:13:27] Alison: Are we going to make flag football like golf and just not talk about it?

[01:13:31] Jill: I don’t know. I don’t know. And of course, football is excited because they really want a version of the sport in potentially have a partnership with the National Football League here in America and hopefully some money comes out of it.

I don’t know, but it’ll be interesting to see how that goes. You’ve already got. Pro football players and former pro football players talking about, Ooh, I’d like to be in the Olympics. So we’ll see what happens with this and how they’re not all Willie

[01:13:57] Alison: Gault. [01:14:00] Not every football player can be an Olympian.


[01:14:03] Jill: Last one is squash. It’s the 2012.

Niccolo Campriani I think the sports director for LA 2028 says squash is already included in eight multi sport events and they can have it at a low cost venue and it has been, quote, for too long the bridesmaid, but never the bride, end quote.

[01:14:28] Alison: It’s like squash has been the side dish and now it is the main entree.

[01:14:33] Jill: How many food jokes are we going to have with squash?

[01:14:35] Alison: So many. Where do we get to Thanksgiving?

[01:14:38] Jill: Oh boy. How are we going to have five new sports, four of them team sports with a quota of 10, 500 athletes? That quota is set in the Olympic charter. Well, apparently it’s going to jump to 11, 242.

[01:14:55] Alison: are those people going to be like John Cena, we don’t see you? We don’t see any of these athletes? Is that what’s happening

[01:15:03] Jill: here? I don’t know. I don’t know how it’s going to work, but it’s going

[01:15:08] Alison: to happen. Maybe like in your soul story, there’ll be all these people who are doing

[01:15:11] Jill: two sports. It could be.

That could be. Hey, if anybody can pick up flag football, it’ll be another athlete modern Pentathlon is in. It made the cut. The fencing ranking round has been removed. So it’ll be a different sport. This also takes away the need for a second venue, because usually the fencing ranking round is in a, convention center type hall or something, sports hall type thing.

Obstacle course will replace horse jumping. The order will be fencing, obstacle swimming, laser run. Also interesting to note, for those of you who are really into modern pentathlon, because this is a conversation we’ve had in my house, we want to see how many senior level athletes retire after [01:16:00] Paris.

Because, , if they were really on the we want to keep horses in the sport side, they may not want to continue on. And obstacle course racing is a very different sport to put in and different muscles to use and train for. will you want to do that?

[01:16:18] Alison: And will we see a significant shift in which countries are powerhouses in modern pentathlon?

It has been incredibly European focused. for the horses, because of that horse jumping has kept it very isolated. And now you take that out will now North America, South America, Oceania, all of a sudden be earning medals in modern pentathlon.

[01:16:46] Jill: Perhaps we shall see. It’ll be very interesting to keep tabs on what goes on.

Also still in the program, weightlifting.

[01:16:54] Alison: How do they keep hanging on?

[01:16:56] Jill: They did make changes and they’ve gotten changes in governance and they’ve had some anti doping changes that have all been very positive according to the IOC. Yeah,

[01:17:06] Alison: positive like the drug tests.

[01:17:09] Jill: We’ll see what happens at Paris.

One note is that boxing is still on hold. The IOC doesn’t want to keep managing it. Well. The organizing committee probably doesn’t want to manage it and the new boxing Association’s not big enough So we’ll see what happens with boxing in time to come.

International Olympic Committee News

[01:17:28] Jill: More news from Mumbai where the IOC session was. The IOC will be awarding the 2030 and 2034 winter games at the same time This is in order to buy some time to figure out the future of the Winter Games, given issues with climate change and so many nations that have snow or don’t have snow anymore.

Carl Stoss, who chairs the future host commission for the Olympic Winter Games, [01:18:00] confirmed that the countries vying for 2030 are France, Sweden, and Switzerland. Salt Lake City is in the running, but they would really prefer 2034. Thoughts?

[01:18:10] Alison: No. I’m going to keep my mouth shut because we all know what I

[01:18:15] Jill: Well, the last time they did this it was because you got down to two cities and they both could host. Now we have four cities for two spots. You are still going to have some quote unquote losers, but I’m very curious to see what will come of this.

Do we have France, who’s just hosting the games and is now, is all very bullish about hosting another games right away? Do you say Sweden? We would love to have you finally host a Winter Games, and you would have done such a wonderful job for 2026, and we begged you to come back. Or do you go with another upstart Switzerland

[01:18:51] Alison: bid?

I’m gonna bet Switzerland and Salt Lake.

[01:18:54] Jill: oh, wow.

[01:18:56] Alison: That’s my 30 34

[01:18:58] Jill: prediction. I’m still hoping for Sweden. I am preparing

[01:19:01] Alison: to have my heart broken again.

[01:19:03] Jill: are you preparing your heart for this?

[01:19:05] Alison: My heart can only take so much Thomas Bach and you’re really pushing it here,

[01:19:12] Jill: right? So Thomas Bach has asked the new IOC e sports commission to study the creation of an, a potential Olympic e sports games.

[01:19:23] Alison: Well, I shouldn’t say I get my heart broken because what they did in Singapore earlier this year, an incredibly successful event.

It was a lot of fun to watch some of it, of what we could see. And it wasn’t the Olympics. It was its own thing. Like the youth games, it’s attached. But not adhered for lack of a better, you know, example that we’re not making the games bigger. We’re going to have these smaller clustered events, which I actually, I can work with this.

I think this is a [01:20:00] good

[01:20:00] Jill: idea. I don’t know what to think. It’s not that the Olympics is getting too big. It’s almost like, where are they going to put this event in the calendar? Will it be on the off year for everything because you have even years, you have a, , winter games or summer games. And then in the flip side, you have a winter youth Olympics or a summer youth Olympics.

So you have even years with two events in them. So you could put this in an odd year and still have some people talking about you because I’m sure that’s what it is. People are not talking about us enough that we need to have another event to maintain some kind of steady relevance throughout.

So I don’t know. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. There have been calls for Teebok to run for another term. His final term 2025. If he was able to run for another term, this would involve amending the Olympic charter. Which is a process. But, it could be done. Teebok has been very diplomatic about this because of course, you’re flattered that somebody wants you to keep going, but I respect the Olympic Charter, diplomacy, blah blah blah, and what do you think?

I think he

[01:21:08] Alison: needs to move on. I do too. I think just as the turnover happens, I mean, he has been incredibly successful. We have disagreed with him, but we’ve also supported him in many, many things, but I think it’s time. I think they have these term limits because each generation needs, I mean, he was young for an IOC president when he started and now it’s time to move on.

[01:21:34] Jill: The idea of term limits came around with Jacques Rogue. And I think that was very smart to do because I think The longer and longer you’re in the more potential there is for scandal Samaranch was in for so so long and we had A bribing scandal with atlanta.

We had bribing scandal with salt lake city. You just have more and more potential for this and I know that some of the people who are [01:22:00] calling for him to be Extending his presidency or also people who need to try to extend their membership in the IOC or they need to extend their own Presidencies at federations and it’s just like, you and move on.


[01:22:15] Alison: a reason that

[01:22:16] Jill: we did this Speaking of members. We have eight new IOC members as we talked about earlier with dr. Donnelly for women for men coming in, including Malaysian actress, Michelle Yao, and Cecilia Tate from Peru, who you might remember from our Seoul 1988 story about the women’s Peruvian volleyball team that won a silver in Seoul.

That story is in episode 285. So if you missed it, you can go back to it. And this brings AIOC membership to 107 people and the proportion of women is 41. 1%.

So they’re still doing more work.

[01:22:53] Alison: Can you imagine, Michelle Yao, how much glamour that is going to bring to the IOC?

And Michelle, yeah She could take some of these people out.

Have you seen

[01:23:04] Jill: this woman in the movies? It’ll be interesting to see how she does with the IOC membership. Well,

[01:23:09] Alison: I often recommended to Tomas Bach, you know, because my personal friend to put his Sword on the table in front of him in those difficult meetings to just remind everybody that he is a gold medal fencer.

And he could just, take off an ear without them even realizing it. Well, Michelle, yeah, I can just walk into a room

and she’s a crouching tiger, hidden dragon. .

[01:23:37] Jill: we’ll see what she does and who she, spars with first , literally and figuratively. So that is going to do it for this week. Let us know what you think of Gen Gender Equity at the Summer

[01:23:49] Alison: Olympics.

You can connect with us on X at Instagram at Flame Alive Pod. Email us at Flame Alive pod@gmail.com. Call or [01:24:00] text us at two zero eight. 6, 3, 4, 8, that’s 208 flame it. Be sure to join the keep the flame alive podcast group on Facebook. And don’t forget to get our weekly newsletter filled with other fun stories about this week’s episode.

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[01:24:22] Jill: Next week, we will be talking with Olympian Kristi Wagner about pairs rowing, which is a really good conversation and we learned a ton compared to eights rowing with Tessa Gobo. So a totally different event and it’s fascinating to see all the different facets in one sport.

So be sure to join us for that. Thank you so much for listening and until next time, keep the flame alive.