March 24 – Debut of Women's Olympiad

Posted on March 24, 2017

You might already know that the Olympic Games were originally events in Ancient Greece. You could probably figure out that women were not allowed to compete in those sporting events. I guess they were not even allowed to WATCH (and the male athletes competed naked, to show off their physical prowess). 

I read that there were a few women who became winners at those ancient Olympics - but it was because they were the owners of the winning horses at equestrian events. Still, even as owners who deeply cared about the events, they were not allowed to watch!

In the early 1900s, few women were allowed to compete in the Olympics. Women competitions in golf and lawn tennis were held in the 1900 Paris Games. Still, no running or jumping or basketball or gymnastics.

Women tried to get more events for female athletes into the games, but the IOC (International Olympic Committee) kept voting down the requests. So two women planned their own Olympiad.

This was THE first international women's sports event. It stretched over five days, starting on this date in 1921. Multiple sports were featured, including competitions in 10 events:
60 meter run 
250 m run 
800 m run 
4 by 75 m relay 
4 by 175 m relay 
65 m hurdles 
high jump 
long jump 
shot put

In addition, there were exhibitions of standing long jump, basketball, gymnastics, pushball, and rhythmic gymnastics.

The Women's Olympiad took place in Monte Carlo, at the International Sporting Club of Monaco. There were about 100 women athletes from five different nations: France, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Only France and the UK were represented in the winner circle, other than two silver medals (javelin, shot put) won by a Swiss athlete named Francesca Pianzola. 

Right, Lucie Breard, a gold medalist from France (800 m run).

Below, Francesca Pianzola with the javelin.

Eventually there were three Women's Olypiads held in Monte Carlo, but by 1928 women's events in all of the "track and field" sports were finally added to the Olympics, along with women's gymnastics.

Since then, more and more women's events have been added, including in 2012 the introduction of women's boxing. Now there are no sports that do not include events for women - although women still face inequality in sports in many places and many ways, around the world.

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