A friend and fellow boater, Samantha Rippington, has taken LOCOG (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) to court this week. She wants them to undertake an equality review of the Olympics which they have thus far refused to do. I hope you’re as shocked as I was to discover that there are still some Olympic sports that women can’t compete in but men can’t. No, you haven’t slipped through a time warp – we are still in 2012.
(There’s some information on my ‘professional’ site here: Samantha Rippington - and no, she’s not a client, just a friend)
Sam’s a brave girl. Since these are the people who have been so controlling about what goes on, communications wise, around the Olympics, she’s taking on the powers that be, and I would love it if you could try, somehow, to offer her some support. When there are some positive ways of doing that I’ll share them here as I get to find out more, but in the meantime, just a short message that I can show her, would let her – and the authorities – know that people are behind her.
You see, Sam’s at the height of her career. Things are going well for her. She’s an elite woman canoeist. But she’s fighting for future generations not to have to suffer gender bias when it comes to the Olympics, because she, like many other women athletes, is heartily sick of the fact that men and women are treated unequally.
I’m more conscious of the sports where men are being allowed to compete, but women aren’t – like the canoeing – but the reverse applies too: there are sports, no doubt, where men would like a higher profile. (The ones where the girls wear swimsuits or bikinis would be my guess, but hey, I may be selling the organisers short?)
Most athletes are afraid to make a stand because they don’t want to jeopardise whatever crumbs of sponsorship come their way. Don’t want to rock the boat. But Sam will do what’s right for the sport. She always has. She’s a volunteer for the BCU (British Canoe Union). She helps out at canoe and kayaking events. More intensely personal to me is the fact that Sam inspires people. She got my son into a kayak at a young age, something that has filled him with a confidence and independence that makes me want to well up when I think about it. If someone wants to get onto the water, Sam has always found a way to help them.
I guess, looking at the coke and burger sponsorships, the true spirit of the Olympics seems, to many of us, to have gone out. The Olympic athletes will run, jump and perform to the very best of their ability from next week and we’ll all be behind them, I hope. But wouldn’t it be great if LOCOG could do the same and make 2012 the last time we see this kind of inequality, and agree to take on the review? Wouldn’t it be great if the Olympics being run in our name was the one that made gender discrimination a thing of the past?