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Women In Sport Commission











(Formerly "Women and Sport")

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Evolution of women and sport

The first Olympic Games of the modern era in 1896 were not open to women. But since this time, the participation of women in the Olympic Movement at all levels has changed considerably: it fully represents the values of our modern society worldwide.

This evolution has taken place within a favourable social, political and cultural framework in which women's issues started to be addressed, and led to major action and regulations that recognised and defended women's rights at all levels of society.

Access to sport was included in international instruments and documents that the United Nations and other institutions approved and promoted in the 1970s and 1980s. Sport and physical activities have been recognised as having a positive impact on health and as being a tool to eliminate socially constructed gender stereotypes.

The Olympic Movement and the sports community at large have followed this movement and progressively undertaken initiatives to allow broader participation by women in sport in general. More sports and disciplines have been opened up to women at all levels and in most countries of the world. In the last 20 years especially, the IOC has pressed for the women's programme at the Olympic Games to be enlarged, in cooperation with the respective International Sports Federations (IFs) and the Organising Committees for the Olympic Games (OCOGs). This development has been further reinforced by the IOC's decision that all sports seeking inclusion in the programme must include women's events. The IOC also started to work on women's involvement at leadership level in sport in 1981, under the initiative of former President Juan Antonio Samaranch, who wanted to have women co-opted as IOC members. As a result, 24 members out of 107 are women.

The Olympic Charter was amended to include, for the first time in history, an explicit reference to the need for work in this area:
"The IOC encourages and supports the promotion of women in sport at all levels and in all structures, with a view to implementing the principle of equality of men and women."
Rule 2, paragraph 7, Olympic Charter in force as from 07.07.2007