The International Olympic Committee is pushing for more gender parity, with its goal being an equal gender split for the Tokyo Games in 2020. Mixed-gender events are proposed for archery, swimming, triathlon and taekwondo.
Sports federations are busy including these mixed events to their programs in response. Simply adding events isn’t possible, as the IOC limits the Olympic program to 310 events with the total number of participants capped at 10,500. Some single-sex events will be replaced to meet the desired outcome.
IOC President Thomas Bach says “Gender equality is not a women’s issue; gender equality is a human right of profound importance to everyone on earth,” at a forum last month. “Sport is a powerful platform to foster gender equality and empower women and girls both on and off the field of play. This is a key mission of the International Olympic Committee.”
In contrast to this positive effort, some coaches say this will rather become a challenge for choosing athletes in events such as the swimming medley. The differences between female and male swimmers chosen for the different strokes would affect the outcome greatly.
This happened during the Russian world championships, where the only team that chose a female athlete fell behind nearly 15 seconds during the back and breaststroke legs while climbing back at an alarming rate during the last two strokes with the male swimmers.
Mixing two men and two women in any order causes these kinds of back and forth fluctuations and big lead changes. Frank Busch, the United States national team director, says this event added by FINA is “all for entertainment purposes.”
We’ll have to see whether or not these kinds of changes bring about a positive effect for the games. Even if coaches dislike these additions, if the reception from viewers and athletes is good then it may just become commonplace.