The rise and struggle of female sport participation in the Olympic Games since 1896.
In this essay I will explain and justify the rise and development of female participation in the Olympic Games with specific reference to the 14 year struggle between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and La Federation Sportive Feminine Internationale (FSFI).
Times were changing. The end of the nineteenth century and during the beginning of the twentieth century, industrialisation and the impact of social reform through women's movement changed the passive role of women to an active one. This change also was slowly becoming evident in sports. .
Women were traditionally prohibited from participating in the Ancient Olympic Games. They could not even enter the playing area or the stadium as spectators. At the turn of the century when the modern Games came in to being, debate took place on the principles of women's participation.
"The solemn and periodic exaltation of male athleticism, with internationalism as a base, loyalty as a means, art for its setting, and female applause as reward" (Baron Pierre de Coubertin 1896).
The founder of the modern Olympic Games, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, was not in favour of women participating in the games, or in sports in general. It is not surprising by Coubertin feeling that women were excluded from the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1986.
Women were excluded from the 1986 Games but a Greek women called Melpomene trained secretly for weeks and asked to enter the marathon. Despite being denied by the Olympic officials, Melpomene ran the marathon as protest. Her actions symbolises the efforts of those who have struggled over the years to overcome male domination of Olympic sports.
The first breakthrough in women's participation took place at the second Olympics, the 1900 Paris Games. It was here that Charlotte Cooper became the first Olympic champion by winning the gold medal in the tennis championships.