Media Releases

Olympic gender inequalities persist: Report

April 9, 2013

TORONTO, ON – The 2012 Lon­don Olympics marked the first time in his­to­ry that women were rep­re­sent­ed in every sport and that all of the 204 par­tic­i­pat­ing coun­tries includ­ed female ath­letes. IOC pres­i­dent Jacques Rogge called it “a major boost for gen­der equal­i­ty.” Yet, male ath­letes still had more events to par­tic­i­pate in and medals to vie for, accord­ing to a new report pub­lished by the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toronto’s Cen­tre for Sport Pol­i­cy Stud­ies.

The report shared results of a gen­der audit of the 2012 Games, con­duct­ed by Pro­fes­sor Peter Don­nel­ly, direc­tor of the cen­tre, and Dr. Michele K. Don­nel­ly, from the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. The researchers found that there were over 1,200 more male ath­letes than female ath­letes com­pet­ing in Lon­don, and that there were 30 more events open to men than to women. Per­haps most strik­ing was their find­ing that gen­der dif­fer­ences were evi­dent in almost half of the 302 events. These ranged from dif­fer­ences in the num­ber of men and women per­mit­ted to com­pete in an event, to dis­crep­an­cies in race dis­tances, to incon­sis­ten­cy in rules and equip­ment.

“We have called on the IOC, as the gate­keep­ers of the Olympics, to make a final com­mit­ment to gen­der equal­i­ty at the Games in terms of an equal num­ber of events for men and women, and near equiv­a­lence in the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants,” says Peter Don­nel­ly.

The authors cred­it the IOC for the progress to date, espe­cial­ly in the last 15 years, but they argue that the orga­ni­za­tion can still do more. “The IOC is ide­al­ly locat­ed to be the moral leader in tak­ing these final steps towards gen­der equal­i­ty and to per­suade the inter­na­tion­al fed­er­a­tions that only gen­der equal events will be per­mit­ted at the Games,” says Peter Don­nel­ly. “Why wait any longer?”

The full report, The Lon­don 2012 Olympics: A Gen­der Equal­i­ty Audit, is avail­able online here.


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Pro­fes­sor Peter Don­nel­ly, direc­tor of U of T’s Cen­tre for Sport Pol­i­cy Stud­ies at: or 416–946-5071

Valerie Ian­covich, com­mu­ni­ca­tions spe­cial­ist, Fac­ul­ty of Kine­si­ol­o­gy and Phys­i­cal Edu­ca­tion at:  or 416–946-3713

Dr. Michele Don­nel­ly, Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia at:  or 734–645-3297

Suzanne Wu, Direc­tor of Research Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia  at: or 213–740-0252