International Development minister Lynne Featherstone writes a monthly column for one of her local newspapers. Here is the latest one, her last whilst at the Home Office…..
Wow! I have screamed, shouted, cheered, laughed and cried through the Olympics and Paralympics. And like everyone, I am just so proud of what we have achieved – and the friendly, cheerful way we have achieved it.
With my work on equalities issue, it is the increasing parity between male and female sports and sports stars and between the Olympics and Paralympics which has particular caught my eye. I would simply call the 2012 Games the Equality Games.
Rules and regulations can only go so far in bringing about equality for real. Long-term equality comes from inside us, from changes in our hearts and minds. And my goodness – anyone watching these Games must be changed.
Congratulations to the organising committee who from day one said this would be the most equality friendly games ever – making sure that the Paralympics was integrated from the start and equality was not left in a corner as a rarely mentioned after-thought.
As a result, the International Olympic Committee hailed the London 2012 Games as “an historic step towards gender equality”. This is the first Olympics where women competed in all events.
London 2012 is the first time that Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have sent female sportswomen to the Games. In countries with a better tradition of female participation there were good signs too of the growing importance and interest in female sports. Nearly half of athletes that made Team GB for London 2012 were female and for the first time there were more women than men on the US team.
And boxing finally became open to women in an Olympic Context – with, of course, Britain’s Nicola Adams becoming the first woman to win an Olympic Gold in Boxing.
Then there has been the fantastic interest in the Paralympics – rightly recognising the fantastic sporting achievements from brilliant participants which light up those games just as stunning acts light up the Olympics.
Ellie Simmonds’ magnificent race saw her beaming from many a Sunday front page – so much inspiration for us all. The coverage in the media for the Paralympics for the first time feels so similar to the coverage of the Olympics. We’ve not quite got the same level of TV interest and audiences so far, but my goodness – what a huge step forward 2012 has been from 2008, and the future course is clear. And, I suspect, many of us our actually experience a bit of blade-envy engendered as we watch the amazing blade runners!
And although less visible – LOCOG also were determined that this would be the most friendly LGBT games ever.
All of the equality ambitions and mission were embedded in every meeting, every contract and everyone. That is why this has been the Equality Games.
And as for race – well the Games themselves could be no better example of equality. If you have been to Disney and been through the ‘it’s a small world’ ride – that physical demonstration of different races, cultures, ethnicities is the very essence of the Games.
Of course – there is still a way to go. There are reports that Japanese and Australian female athletes were flown economy class, while the male athletes got business class and female dominated sports such as netball are still not included.
However, I am sure that London 2012 has raised the game of the Games and set a benchmark on equality for Games to come.
I am just so happy and proud that the London Olympics really were an ‘Olympics for everyone’.
* Lynne Featherstone is a minister at the Department for International Development and blogs atwww.lynnefeatherstone.org.