After 124 years and 28 Summer Olympic Games dominated by men, Tokyo 2020 promises to be the first gender-balanced edition of the world’s largest sporting event.

This summer’s delayed, and still hotly debated, spectacle has been declared by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as the ‘first gender-balanced Games ever’, with 49% of those competing identifying as female, and 51% male.  


Even the Rio Olympics, five years ago, saw a significantly lower ratio than this, as women only filled 44% of the allocated spaces. Since the very first games in 1896, which banned female participation altogether, women have slowly crept their way into, and stamped their mark on, sport’s ultimate stage.

While there may not be an exact equilibrium quite yet, Great Britain’s team are one step ahead of the rest, sending more women than men to the Olympics for the first time in history. Mark England, Team GB’s chef de mission for the games, claimed that “2021 is truly the year of the female Olympian”, as they outnumber the men 201 to 175.

With the USA and China, who have dominated the overall medal tallies in recent years, also selecting more women than men for the first time, these superpowers send an emphatic message to the sporting world about the elite athletes they support, trust and value. The repercussions of this could, and should, be vast.

But the real value perhaps lies far beyond the promising statistics. By hosting an (almost) equal number of women at the Games as men, Tokyo 2020 offers an unprecedented, unparalleled opportunity to showcase women’s sport at its finest.

Unlike any other sporting event of its calibre, the Olympics allows the world’s most divine in each sport, male and female, to compete at the same event for the same, life-defining prize: Olympic gold. The sexism that persists in certain sports does not, of course, instantly vanish, but it is the closest we get to an equal playing field – literally, in some cases.

There are no divisions defined only by sexism between, for example, the Premier League and the Women’s Super League. There are no differences in broadcasting rights or coverage. There are no excuses for fans to show a heightened interest in one gender over the other. For sports such as football and rugby the monumental gender gap is somehow, temporarily, overlooked for this omnipotent sporting festival.

Now, with more women competing at the Games than ever before, there is a golden opportunity for females to showcase to a global audience what they are capable of. By capitalising on the Olympics’ unique ability to draw the public into unknown and obscure events, athletes across all sports can demonstrate just how ludicrous it was, 124 years ago, to ban them from competing.

Then maybe Paris 2024, for the first time in history, will see more women competing at the Olympics than men. Stranger things have happened.