Baron Pierre de Coubertin was the founder of the Olympic games as we know them.
He started out his journey after witnessing what children in England in the 1800s already had accessibility to; the combination of sports and education. He brought that concept with him back to France, and called for an education reform at the age of 25.
The first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896 in Athens, Greece. The only athletes competing were male. Given the time period, that is not surprising. Something that is though, is what de Coubertin said about women at the time.
De Coubertin said that the Olympic games were for “the solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism with female applause as reward.” He said that women were never in the ancient Olympics, so why would they participate in the modern era?
The Olympic founder thought that women were the weaker sex. Now, we can’t be completely angry at him, for it was common of the time period. 150 years later though, female athletes are proving the grandfather of modern sports competition wrong every chance they can.
The earliest women competed in the Olympics was in 1900, only four years after the inaugural games in Athens. They competed in sports like sailing, tennis, and golf. Those sports were some of the most popular in the 20th century. Sports like biking, racewalking, and some running events would be added later on to the Olympic agenda.
In the 1950s, when the Soviet Union came about and their female athletes were some of the most elite. They showed up to the Helsinki games in 1952 with the desire to run the table in terms of Olympic gold.
Because their athletes were so successful, the United States had to dedicate time to their female athletes. To help these women train to be the best athletes that represent the US. When you think about it with the context of history, the United States was locked into The Cold War with the Soviet Union. It was important to the United States to continue to dominate in order to continue to keep the threat of another war at bay.
Title XI then comes out in the 1970s, which grants equality to all women’s sports, and brings us up to today.
Now, some of the best athletes in the world are females. With stars like Sue Bird, Alex Morgan and Serena Williams who have more than pulled their weight in fighting injustice and inequality, but are also some of the best athletes in the world today. They represent their country at the largest events imaginable.
If they could go back and meet de Coubertin, they would show him that women can compete in his games, and aren’t just for sitting in the stands.