On the occasion of the Olympic Winter Games currently taking place in Pyeongchang, Korea, and the upcoming celebration of International Women’s Day, Sport au Féminin reflects on the major actions of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ) for the promotion of women in sport. What a journey has been made so far!


Nigeria, Togo, Eritrea or even Madagascar are currently taking part in the Olympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang. Beyond the fact that these nations are all considered exotic because of their mild climate, their particularity for this 2018 edition is that they are all represented by female athletes.

Until a few decades ago, to see such a thing was almost impossible. But today, doors have opened up considerably for women. The International Olympic Committee is a big part of the movement.

Since 2000, the date of the creation of the IOC Trophies “Women and Sport” which reward women but also men or organizations contributing admirably “to the development and the strengthening of the participation of women in sport”, things have accelerated extraordinarily. Each year, an African woman has been honored on the African continent.

Find the complete list of African winners since the creation of the Women and Sport Trophies.

As we prepare to celebrate International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at the history of women in the Olympic Games through the decades. The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Olympic Charter. The IOC therefore has the obligation “to encourage and support the promotion of women in sport at all levels”. What was it before?

The first Olympic Games in Athens took place in 1896, without women. Pierre de Coubertin himself considered it incongruous to involve women. At that time, he was of the popular opinion that a woman practicing a high-level sport would lose all femininity. The machos!

In 1900, twenty-two women took part in the J.O. of Paris out of a total of 997 participants. They could compete only in events “compatible with their femininity” such as tennis, horseback riding or figure skating.

In 1917, the Women’s Sports Federation of France was born thanks to Alice Miliat. Two years later, she asked Pierre de Coubertin to reconsider his decision by allowing women to participate in all the events on the program. Unfortunately he opposes it again and in the face of his refusal, Alice Miliat creates the Women’s Olympic Games of Hera. The idea does not please the IOC and she was forced to cancel these games or renamed them. They became the World Women’s Games, which had a real success.

Alice Coachman effectue un saut.

After the departure of Pierre de Coubertin, women really began to be integrated. In 1948, at the London Olympics, a black woman won for the first time. The American Alice Coachman won a gold medal in the high jump.

Women represented 13% of the competitors in Tokyo in 1964 and 23% in Los Angeles in 1984. It was even during this last edition that Nawal El Moutawakel became the first African woman to win an Olympic medal. The Moroccan won the Gold 400m Hurdles.

In 1991, the IOC stipulated that any new discipline in the Olympic Games must necessarily include categories reserved for women.

The 2012 London Olympics have been the scene of many revolutions. For the first time, women competed in all the sports disciplines included in the program. They accounted for more than 45% of competitors. Pyeongchang 2018 was in the same trend with nearly 45% of women athletes. Not bad, wasn’t it ?

L’athlète marocaine Nawal El Moutawakel en août 1984.

We started from a total exclusion of women at the first Olympic Games more than a century ago, to a progress towards total parity.

Today sports federations find themselves a little obliged, very often in spite of themselves, to introduce women into their spheres, not just as athletes but increasingly as leaders. Although it is true that some countries are still lagging behind.

From Tokyo 2020, everything will be done to ensure that equal opportunities are respected. Indeed, by adopting the Olympic Agenda 2020 in December 2014, the IOC has made a series of 40 recommendations, among which the n ° 11 which requires it “to work with the International Federations to achieve a 50% female participation at the Olympic Games and to encourage the participation of women and their presence in sport by creating more opportunities for participation in the Olympic Games “.

It must be said that the revolution is under way. The measurements are linked in the direction of the progression. Yesterday morning, Wednesday, February 21, at the 9th International Symposium of the Sport Industry, held in Chuncheon, Republic of Korea, new agreements were discussed to improve the organization of games.

And to go further, On last February 7, the IOC approved plans to target the National Olympic Committees of Africa as potential hosts of the fourth edition of the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2022.

What do next editions reserve for us? Parity, we dream of it. As long as it’s fair … Both men and women should have the right to compete in all disciplines. Excluding men from rhythmic gymnastics or synchronized swimming is not in line with the so-called parity. Let’s hope that 2020 will bring solutions to the problems of today.


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