A long road to gender equality
The Olympic Games Los Angeles 1984 provided a platform for promoting women’s inclusion in sport and saw significant advances in female participation, which contributed to the continuing growth of women’s sports competitions.
The exclusively female disciplines of synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics made their debuts on the Olympic programme. In addition to the women’s marathon, women’s 3,000m and 400m hurdles, shooting and road cycling took their first Olympic bow. The increased emphasis on women’s participation led to a record number of female athletes taking part in the 1984 Olympic Games, with 23 per cent of the total participants being female.
Women’s marathon at the 1984 Olympic Games was a breakthrough moment for female distance running: although women were already running marathons internationally, this was the first time the event was featured in the Olympic programme. Since then, the women’s marathon event has been a permanent fixture at the Olympic Summer Games. To celebrate this milestone, a plaque in the LA Memorial Coliseum’s Court of Honor was unveiled in 2017, commemorating the winner of the 1984 Olympic marathon – Joan Benoit Samuelson.
The success of this inaugural event served as a springboard to elevate the sport, especially in the United States. What followed was the development of a new industry of women’s running clothing, gear and shoes, as well as numerous running events and training programmes for women.