Lessons About Women, Lessons for Men at the Games

POSTCARD from Barcelona

TRUE confession: Covering the Olympics involves a fair amount of TV watching. Even for a print reporter, it's inevitable at an event of such magnitude, with so much happening simultaneously.

Actually, as one sits typing away in the Main Press Center, there are some interesting personal discoveries to be made while staring up at the silent TV monitors strung together like boxcars.

For this reporter, one of those has been women's judo, a sport that initially I found a turnoff. What I discovered the longer I watched was a most intriguing drama of women going head to head, in highly physical but dignified battles. And even in the absence of any knowledge about these competitors, other than their nationalities, it seemed clear that they were not coarse, street toughs, but people of civility.

Their ability to be thoroughly aggressive yet sporting, and to keep bounding back after being slammed to the mat, was impressive. And the drama was wonderful in the lightweight division, as Spain's own Miriam Blasco scored a narrow victory over Britain's Nicola Fairbrother to become Spain's first female gold-medalist. This marks the debut of women's judo in the Olympics, and whether or not the sport retains a permanent place in the Games, it certainly is another reminder of the grittiness of today's fema le athletes.

Their presence in the Olympics continues to grow.

Besides judo, they also enjoy new competitive opportunities in badminton, whitewater canoeing, the 10-km race walk, the individual-pursuit cycling race, the four-with-cox rowing event, and two additional yachting events (European Class and sailboarding).

A folder of materials made available here by the Sport Canada's Women's Program, however, serves as a clear reminder of the need for progress. To wit, only seven of the 90 International Olympic Committee members are women.

Men outnumber women entrants here, about 7,100 to 2,500, and many developing countries sent few, if any, females. The Canadians included some pointers for reporters on how to achieve more gender equity in their stories: Avoid such adjectives as "cute" and "pixie" in describing female athletes.

The message has not gotten through to everyone. At least one report on the United States women's basketball team, which is playing in the long shadow of the men's Dream Team, referred to the American women as the Dreamettes.

And, looking to kill time during the archery competition, the public-address announcer elected to impart a personal fact about event leader Youn-Jeong Cho. Her hobby? Talking on the telephone.

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