The battle for gender-balanced Winter Games . . .
The International Olympic Committee has declared Beijing 2022 the most gender-balanced Winter Olympics, with women making up 45 per cent of all athletes and 53 per cent of the events featuring female athletes. This represents a slight increase from the last Winter Games held in PyeongChang, South Korea, in 2018, as four new mixed-gender events have been added to the program in Beijing. While this is an important step toward full gender parity targeted for the next Winter Olympics in Italy in 2026, the journey to reach broader gender equality in sports in China remains ongoing.
Gender issues taking spotlight . . .
Two days after the Winter Games opened in Beijing, the Chinese women’s soccer team made a splash by beating South Korea in the final of the 2022 AFC Women’s Asian Cup on Sunday. China, which has won the tournament a record nine times, last won it in 2006. Celebration of the victory quickly expanded to a vibrant discussion on equal pay among male and female soccer players on China’s internet. The men’s national team, which lost heavily in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match a week ago and cannot qualify for the World Cup finals later this year, has received huge state and private sector investments for years while failing to deliver results. Meanwhile, fintech giant Ant Group and leading dairy producer Mengniu have both announced bonuses for the women’s team and the coach, totalling C$2.6 million and C$2 million, respectively.
A changing national sports model . . .
Operating in a heavily state-funded and -led model, China’s national sports industry has seen attempts in recent years to shift away from a result-oriented ‘gold medal only’ mentality. This is especially true in winter sports where the country is a relative newcomer. Yet, with the government’s relentless efforts to maintain excellence and reactions of the Chinese public to winning and losing, such a shift still has a long way to go. Nevertheless, the spotlight on the women soccer team’s Asian Cup victory, and the broad attention garnered by the meeting between the IOC president and allegedly censored tennis player Peng Shuai, have competed with the Olympics, at least in the short term, indicating growing concern in China for gender equity and rights.
- International Olympic Committee: Women at the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 – All you need to know
- The New York Times: Peng Shuai, the Chinese tennis player, meets the I.O.C. leader in Beijing
- SupChina: Beijing 2022: China’s first steps to becoming a winter sports powerhouse