The 2012 London Olympics have been good for womankind: all 204 participating nations sent female athletes to compete in the Games for the first time (Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei were the last to come around) and the first ever women medals were awarded in sports like women's boxing.
But the number of women's events still don't match the number of men's; nine sports are still unequal when it comes to gender representation and there are 30 more medals available to men than women. That's why current shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell announced that she'll be leading a campaign to make the 2016 Olympics in Rio the "first gender equal games," which means same number of medals will be available to both sexes.
"[Boxer] Nicola Adams's face is smiling out of every newspaper front page today. Her gold medal was not just reward for brilliant athleticism, but also another milestone in the long road to gender equality for women in sport," Jowell told the Guardian. "In Beijing, she would not have been allowed to compete. Yesterday, she and our other women boxers demonstrated that women boxers can pull in the crowds just like the men."
The International Olympic Committee doesn't want to make any promises about 2016. Instead, it's focusing on being super amped about the fact that IT GETS BETTER (eventually). And it does! At the 1984 Olympics, only 24% of those competing were women. This year, the number of women athletes increased to 44%. Back in 1996 — which wasn't too long ago — 26 countries failed to send women to compete in the Games. This year, all of them did!
"It comes as it comes, but we will push it as well," an IOC spokesman said, adding that the committee would continue to make the issue a priority. "I can't give a firm commitment that we'll have everything in Rio, but we're getting very close."
One challenge is that the IOC wants to keep the overall number of events at the same level; that means a men's event must be canceled for every additional women's event. But is that really necessary? Given that there's still a massive gender imbalance in the sports industry 24/7 — women's sport receives only 0.5% of corporate sponsorship and 5% of total media coverage — why can't we enjoy some equality two weeks every four years?