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#OlympicHistory: Women at The Summer Olympics

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If one looks at the involvement of women in sports, it is heartening to see the growth in participation across the world.  Women now participate in formats which previously were restricted for men. The Olympic movement has had its own evolutionary story when it comes to women’s inclusion.

At the first modern Olympics in 1896, there were 241 athletes who took part and all were men. Twenty-two women competed in the second edition at Paris in 1900. Compare this with the last Summer Olympics at London 2012; there were women participating from every National Olympic Committee that had sent its team – a first of its kind.

Over the years, women’s participation was in parallel to the Olympic movement itself. While the world boasted of well-known male athletes, there was little work done to provide opportunity for women to compete at the big stage. Women’s growth at the Olympics was positive with each edition – but very gradual. It was zero in 1896 and in 2012, the women participation was 4,675. Sports benefitted with increase in women’s voice in other areas of life.

(Refer the Infographic below for more details).

Up until the 1970’s, the male participation hovered around 4,000 plus athletes and in comparison the women numbers were less than thousand. This trend continued until Munich 1972 where the total number of women participants crossed 1000 for the first time and 6000 for men. From then on, it has been women participants that are on the rise while the male participation is pretty much a constant.

Women Participation at the Summer Olympics (as of London 2012)
Women Participation at the Summer Olympics (as of London 2012)
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Profile photo of Rajan Thambehalli
Rajan lives in Switzerland and has a keen interest in understanding behind the scenes of sports. Besides, he loves reading about history, watching old Hollywood classics, travelling to new places and understanding cultures.