While the 2016 Olympic Games have unfolded in Rio de Janeiro, attention has surprisingly not been focused on superlative achievement and skill. Sports fans have been thrilled no end by the awesome spectacle of world records being shattered, and athletes like Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt defying Father Time.
But there’s another story that is increasingly being noticed, and this is the fact that the media coverage of the games has reached a new level of sexism and unfairness to women athletes.
Women first took part in the Olympics in Paris in 1900. Back then, there were just 22 women among 997 athletes, and they competed in just five sports.
With more women competing in Rio than in any other Olympics, it was generally supposed that there would be more equality in the coverage of male and female athletes by the media.
But the facts show otherwise. We found particularly informative and riveting a report published by the Los Angeles Times. In its report, headlined “She’s ‘old, for a woman’: Media around the world condemned for sexist Olympics coverage,” the LA Times reported:
“US media, notably NBC and some other US news outlets, have taken a drubbing for a sexist approach to female athletes. But around the world, “other media organizations are showing they aren’t about to let the Americans win gold, silver and bronze in the foot-in-mouth competition.”
Among the egregious examples of sexism highlighted by the Times were:
1.NBC broadcaster Dan Hicks, who after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won gold and set a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, immediately started talking about her husband and coach, calling him “the guy responsible.”
2. South Korean media stumbled all over the place in their coverage.
The English-language Korea Times ran a story speculating on the love life of 6-foot-3 Kim Yeon-goung, headlined: “Boyfriend a tall order for 192-cm South Korean volleyball star.”
While watching a women’s weightlifting event, a TV announcer from South Korea’s Munhwa Broadcasting remarked, with a tone of awe, “It’s amazing to see women, not men, do this.”
3. An announcer from SBS, another South Korean TV network, remarked that one Vietnamese judoka, at 28, was “old, for a woman.”
4. Perhaps the nastiest example occurred in German media. An equestrian commentator for ARD TV, Carsten Sostmeier, opened an interview with rider Julia Krajewski with, “Let’s see what the blondie has to say.”
He went on to call her a “scaredy-cat” and said she was so afraid of the course that “there was a brown stripe in her panties.”
The Der Tagesspiegel branded Sostmeier as “the first male chauvinist pig” of the Rio Games. Sostmeier and his boss at ARD apologized.
In Brazil, a SporTV presenter asked Angolan handball star ýTeresa “Ba” Almeida whether it was true she wanted to lose weight and whether she preferred to get thinner or have a medal.
In China, sports commentator Han Qiaosheng, long known for his awkward remarks, said he wished that popular swimmer Fu Yanhui could “find her other half in the future.”
A commentator for Canada’s CBC, Byron MacDonald, said that 14-year-old Chinese swimmer Ai Yanhan “went out like stink and died like a pig” in the 200-meter women’s freestyle heat. CBC apologized, saying it was “an unfortunate choice of words.”
Given all this, we are prompted to ask:
How did our own media fare in covering the Olympics?
With very little Filipino coverage and with only Hidylyn Diaz contending and winning a medal, it would be the height of silliness if our media still found time to display sexism and stupidity.