The Only Olympic Sports Men Can’t Play, Male athletes have called for a change after being ruled out of two summer events. Summer Olympic sports where men are barred from competing, The London Games are a celebration of equality. For the first time, women will compete in all 26 sports, including boxing. It’s not total equality – women still compete in 30 fewer events than men – but it’s part of a larger trend towards gender equity on sports’ global stage.
So what happens if you’re a male athlete that feels discriminated against, based on gender?
According to Belinda Goldsmith of Reuters, there are two sports in which men are shut out of competition in which women compete for medals:
Men have called for action after being ruled out from competing at two events at the Summer Olympics, synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics, even though there are growing numbers of men participating in both sports.
A lobby group of male synchronized swimmers wrote to the IOC and swimming’s governing body FINA in June to argue that men should no longer be excluded from this event at the Olympics.
Men’s rhythmic can resemble a different sport than women’s. It’s a strength-based competition that incorporates martial arts; power is emphasized as much as artistry. It’s born from Japanese stick gymnastics, and the Japan Gymnastics Association is helping to lead the charge in an attempt to get the sport recognized as an Olympic sport.
Like male synchronized swimming, men’s rhythmic faces a participation issue: Are there enough athletes around the world competing in these sports to warrant Olympic inclusion? This eventually enters a chicken-or-the-egg argument: How do fringe sports become mainstream without validation from the IOC?
But male synchronized swimming faces other issues to speak to the sexual politics in organized sports.
Male synchronized swimming has had a charming existence in popular culture. It’s lampooned on cruise ship comedy nights. “Men Who Swim,” a quirky documentary about an all-male swim team in Stockholm, premiered on PBS this year. The sport was immortalized by Harry Shearer and Martin Short on “Saturday Night Live” in this inescapable sketch: