Claims of sexism have emerged this week after bosses of Japan’s football squad and Australia’s basketball teams were found to have booked their male athletes into business class seats to fly to London for the Games, whilst their female counterparts travelled in economy.
What makes the situation all the more surprising is that both women’s sides are more successful than the men’s – Japan’s women’s football team are strong gold-medal contenders, whilst their male counterparts are not expected to win anything.
“I guess it should have been the other way around,” commented Japan’s star player Homare Sawa, also Fifa’s 2011 world player of the year. “Even just in terms of age, we are senior,” she joked.
The 33-year-old led Japan’s women’s side to World Cup victory last year when they saw off the US to become the first Asian team to win the FIFA Women’s World Cup. The men’s team, however, didn’t make it past the first round of their World Cup campaign two years ago when they lost to Paraguay.
The Japanese Olympic committee have said that the majority of the country’s Olympic athletes, as amateurs, were required to fly economy, with an exception for judoka and other physically large competitors. The country’s football authorities said the men’s team, as professionals, had been allocated business class seats since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, but as the female team are amateurs and not that big ‘physique-wise’ they fly economy.
It’s a similar story for Australia, with the country’s basketball authorities confirming that the men’s squad flew business class from Sydney, while the women’s side flew economy. Again success appears irrelevant here, as the Australian women have taken silver at the last three Games, while the men have never won a medal.
A Basketball Australia spokeswoman told the Sydney Morning Herald it was a matter of budgeting, with the women’s and men’s teams each helping decide how their individual budgets were spent. “The leadership group of each team is consulted on how that budget is spent, including travel arrangements,” she said.
The sizes of the athletes again came into play here, and she added that height and size were a “primary consideration”. However, she noted that the average male basketball player was 200.2cm tall, while the average woman player was 183cm, which, whilst true, the Sydney Morning Herald also noted that women’s squad member Liz Cambage is 203cm (6ft 8in) tall, while male players Adam Gibson and Patrick Mills are 188cm and 183cm respectively.
Jessica Whittington, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine