Spotlight on role of sport in advancing women at Olympians Reunion Centre event in Rio

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, Thomas Bach, joined fellow Olympians at the World Olympians Association (WOA)’s Reunion Centre in Rio de Janeiro last night to pay tribute to the impact the Olympic Movement has had on, and can continue to have on, empowering and advancing women.

Olympians Reunion Centre IOC/ M. Stockman

During a dedicated event at the Olympians Reunion Centre by EY entitled Women. Fast Forward, IOC President Bach, WOA President Joël Bouzou, and IOC Women and Sport Commission member and two-time Olympian Donna De Varona, along with other prominent female Olympians, business leaders and dignitaries, honoured some of the world’s most accomplished women in sport  and reiterated sport’s role in promoting female leadership.

“Women athletes are inspirational role models”, said President Bach. “Personally speaking, my first impressions of female champions, like Wilma Rudolph, have shaped my thinking on gender equality.”

Olympians Reunion Centre IOC/Ian Jones

President Bach, who has been named a “HeForShe” ambassador by UN Women, added: “While participation of women in the Olympic Games has steadily increased, we are conscious that we must continue to lead by example and promote strong female leadership across the governing and administrative bodies of the Olympic Movement. Through our Women and Sport Commission and initiatives such as our educational and training programmes that target women in sport, we are ensuring female athletes are given the best possible opportunity to succeed as future leaders and ambassadors for sport.” 

Donna De Verona, two-time Olympic swimming champion and the first female TV sports newsreader, said: “Olympians are a resource the world over. […] Women athletes spend a lifetime nurturing valuable skills. We know that; whether or not they know it; the world needs them beyond the playing field.”

As part of the “One Win Leads to Another” initiative, supported by the International Olympic Committee  in partnership with UN Women, calls have been made to work together, create partnerships and help make sport more accessible to girls. Additionally, sport and business leaders have been asked to invest in female athletes once their sports careers come to an end.

Speaking at the Olympians Reunion Centre event, Beth Brooke-Marciniak, EY Global Vice-Chair of Public Policy and Leader of the Women Athletes Business Network, added:  “We need more women in leadership, in all sectors: academic, government, business and sport. It is IOC’s Agenda 2020 which is committed to building a better world through sport. I believe that, with our focus on women, in getting more of them into leadership after sport, we will build an even better working world.”

Since women first competed in the Olympic Games in 1900, the Olympic Movement has made great strides in gender equality on the playing field. At the Olympic Games London 2012, women competed in every sport for the first time, and every competing nation was represented by at least one female athlete. The total number of participating athletes also approached parity, with nearly 45 per cent of competitors being female. At Rio 2016, the margin is expected to be even closer. 

Learn more about the promotion of women in sport at

A destination hub for Olympians

The Olympians Reunion Centre is a meeting place for Olympians of all ages, sports and nationalities to gather in the heart of the Olympic action in Rio de Janeiro. The unique venue, situated at the iconic Club de Regatas do Flamengo, on the shores of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas, has been exclusively designed to enhance the Rio 2016 experience for visiting Olympians. 

The Centre is open throughout the Olympic Games and is expected to welcome hundreds of Olympians from around the world.

To learn more, visit

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