Beijing 2022 sets new records for gender equality

Beijing 2022 is already the most gender-balanced Olympic Winter Games in history, with women accounting for a record 45 per cent of the athletes. But through adjustments to the sports programme and competition schedule, and wide circulation of the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s Portrayal Guidelines, these Games are also helping to promote more balanced coverage of women’s sport.  

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 03: Rebecca Johnston #6 of Team Canada scores a goal against goalkeeper Andrea Braendli #20 of Team Switzerland during the second period of the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group B match between Sweden and Japan at Wukesong Sports Centre on February 03, 2022 in Beijing, China. Getty Images
  • Full gender balance in 10 disciplines (out of 15): biathlon, skeleton, curling, figure skating, short track speed skating, speed skating, Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboard and cross-country skiing
  • Highest number of women’s events ever
  • Record number of mixed gender events (11 mixed gender events/1 open event)
  • Final Saturday to feature nine hours of women’s events, compared to five hours on the same day in PyeongChang four years ago
  • 45 per cent of the total number of flag bearers at the Opening Ceremony were women
  • 73 per cent of NOCs had a female flag bearer (either one female flag bearer or one male and one female flag bearer)

These results have been achieved thanks to the joint efforts of the IOC, the International Federations (IFs) and the National Olympic Committees (NOCs).

New events showcase women’s sport

Innovations to the sports programme and competition schedule are going hand-in-hand with efforts to promote more balanced gender portrayal from the international press. The IOC has been working with the Winter IFs on evolving the sports programme to make sure that Beijing 2022 builds on the progress made at the Olympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018. With the changes made specifically for Beijing 2022, the International Skating Union (ISU) is following the example of the International Biathlon Union (IBU) and the World Curling Federation which had already reached gender equality on their Olympic programmes.

YANQING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 14:  Breeana Walker of Team Australia slides during the Women's Monobob Bobsleigh Heat 4 on day 10 of Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games at National Sliding Centre on February 14, 2022 in Yanqing, China. © Getty Images

Two new women’s events (women’s monobob and big air for both men and women) and four new mixed events have been added to the programme, taking the total number of mixed events to 12, compared to eight in PyeongChang. With these additions, Beijing has the highest number of women’s events ever. More disciplines have moved to gender-balance for the first time, with skeleton, luge (men's and women's singles), speed skating, cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing, freestyle skiing and snowboard reaching this milestone in Beijing.

Finally, the new rule introduced by the IOC, allowing a mix of flagbearers in the Opening Ceremony, has had a significant impact on women’s representation. At PyeongChang 2018, 30 per cent of all the flagbearers were women, while in Beijing the figure rose to 45 per cent.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 04: Flag bearers Kjeld Nuis and Lindsay van Zundert of Team Netherlands carry their flag during the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at the Beijing National Stadium on February 04, 2022 in Beijing, China. © Getty Images

Beijing 2022 competition schedule: women and men sharing the spotlight

The IOC has been working with the IFs to put women’s events in the same venues as the men’s and give them equal prominent Games-time broadcast slots for media and television coverage.

Again building on changes made at PyeongChang 2018, in Beijing 2022 there have been further adjustments to the competition schedule to put women front and centre. For example, two women’s events – women’s biathlon 12.5km mass start and two-women bobsleigh – have been moved to the final Saturday, increasing the amount of women’s sport on the penultimate day of competition to nine hours, compared to five hours on the same day four years ago. And for the first time ever, the first medal event for ski jumping was the women’s competition, won by Slovenia’s Urša Bogataj.

Developments such as these show how the IOC’s efforts to promote gender equality at the Olympic Games go far beyond achieving 50-50 athlete representation on the field of play, and are being matched by an increasing focus on influencing behavioural change among the media, sports organisations and the Olympic Movement generally. The Olympic Games give an incredible spotlight to athletes, in particular female athletes, and the IOC takes its responsibility of showcasing athletes equally seriously.

ZHANGJIAKOU, CHINA - FEBRUARY 05: Ursa Bogataj of Team Slovenia jumps during Women's Normal Hill Individual 1st Round at National Ski Jumping Centre on February 05, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China. © Getty Images

The importance of fair and equal portrayal

Ahead of the unprecedented six-month period featuring the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, the IOC, in recognition of this unique opportunity and of the power of sport to shape gender norms and stereotypes, published an updated version of its Portrayal Guidelines.

The aim of the new guidelines, in line with the IOC Gender Equality and Inclusion Objectives for 2021-2024, is to raise awareness of and call for gender-equal and fair representation of sportspeople across all forms of media and communication. Just as in Tokyo, with the record participation of female athletes at Beijing 2022 and the spotlight that comes with such a global sports event, the Portrayal Guidelines highlight the role of organisations in helping shift how women and marginalised groups are seen, and how they see themselves.

BEIJING, CHINA - FEBRUARY 08: Amos Mosaner and Stefania Constantini of Team Italy compete against Team Norway during the Curling Mixed Doubles Gold Medal Game on Day 4 of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics at National Aquatics Centre on February 08, 2022 in Beijing, China. © Getty Images

“The IOC and Olympic Broadcast Services (OBS) recognise their responsibility to ensure equal and fair visibility of both female and male athletes,” explained Yiannis Exarchos, CEO of OBS. “Our commitment is not just about the quantity of coverage, but sports organisations can help share the narrative; and as leaders and content creators, we set the tone of how women are pictured and represented.”

Significantly, the guidelines, which were already available in English, French, Japanese and Spanish, were translated into Mandarin by the Beijing 2022 Organising Committee and distributed to local media ahead of the Games. This is expected to have a major impact on gender portrayal and gender equality in Chinese sports coverage.

The updated guidelines underline the important role sports organisations, such as the IOC, can play in setting the tone and ensuring of gender-balanced portrayal. They provide new examples, best practices and tips from the various sectors, from the language (words and expressions) and imagery used to the quality, quantity and prominence of coverage. Now more practical, they now also include checklists and advice to support not only sports organisations, but other organisations involved in the coverage of the Olympic Games such as Rights-Holding Broadcasters and the media in the implementation of balanced and fair reporting and communication – notably in the areas of print, digital, radio and broadcast.

Learn more about the IOC’s ongoing action to advance gender equality both on and off the field of play.

Gender equality and inclusion

Women and Sport
Gender equality is a top priority for the Olympic Movement. The two main aims are to make access to sport in general and the Olympic Games easier for female athletes, and to increase the number of women in sports administration and management.
Learn more
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