The Tokyo Olympics 2020, staying true to its D&I slogan “Know differences, Show differences”, has redefined sports as a powerful medium to drive the message of inclusion and debunk stereotypes and biases. This Olympics is lauded as the “first gender-equal Olympic Games ever”. While one can say that the statement is presumptuous and far from reality, it is important to acknowledge the progress and recognize the small wins made towards an inclusive environment. It is also heartening to know that through the games, Japan aims to make diversity and inclusion an integral part of its otherwise homogeneous society.
Here are a few inspiring D&I facts from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics:
- Olympic Staff: The staff for the games was employed from 370 different companies across 28 different countries. For many Japanese employees, it was the first time working with people from different cultures. The experience and learning from this is a big step towards recognizing and accepting diverse cultures and perspectives. The staff had to undergo D&I training sessions on culture, LGBTQ+ and various other related dimensions of diversity to deepen their understanding and contribute to a truly inclusive environment that goes beyond the event.
- Representation and Inclusive policies: The event had nearly the same number of male and female athletes, with equal visibility for men and women’s events during primetime hours. The Committee ensured equitable policies and greater support, paving way for more women to participate in the event. This included packing in new sporting events for women to participate, mandating countries to have at least one female and one male athlete in their teams, redrafting policies to cater to breastfeeding mothers and athletes with kids and increasing representation of women leaders in the executive board. Female athletes dismissed casual sexism and stereotypes that pregnant and nursing mothers need to rest it out and may not be able to give their best self on the field. American women athletes with 66 medals helped USA finish first in the overall medal count. These reaffirm the fact that gender diversity is critical for high performance.
- Out and Proud: The event saw the largest number of LGBTQ+ athletes, making this the most inclusive sporting event ever. Champions like Tom Daley made headlines and won hearts not just for his diving medals but also for his flawless knitting and crocheting skills. Laurel Hubbard from New Zealand became the first transgender person to compete at an Olympics event. These athletes have made a huge impact on the LGBTQ+ audience and inspired many young aspiring athletes from the community to be their authentic self. Japanese LGBTQ+ activists and allies are hoping to use these inspiring facts as an opportunity to raise awareness about the community in the country.
- Mental health and Well-being: Tokyo Olympics taking off amidst the covid-19 pandemic accelerated the mental health issues for athletes. The pressure of the event compounded with the covid-19 struggles and quarantine protocols saw champions give up on their game. When athlete screamed out for help in words and action, fans across the world showed solidarity through reassuring messages and standing by them. This reinstated the fact that champions are humans too and it is absolutely okay to be not okay. Simone Biles in her brave decision to step away and focus on her mental health has given voice to many athletes to be vulnerable and make their well being a priority over medals and winning. The games provided a solid platform to raise awareness among the sports fraternity on mental health challenges of athletes.
While the event has had several controversies and many may argue on the hype around being a gender balanced event. There is so much one can take away from the inspiring stories of inclusion at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. It drives home the point that it is important to provide the same opportunity for everyone to contribute and to bring their real self and identities to wherever they go.