I don't know about you, but to me it seems like we've been building up to the summer Olympics forever. And with opening day finally here, all the waiting has officially come to an end! In honor of the 2012 games, we thought we'd take a look at a couple of the ways in which this year's summer Olympics will be different from those in years past. The most noteworthy? The worldwide event is no longer a boy's club!
The United States is sending 530 Olympic athletes to London this year: 269 are women and 261 are men, which means that for the first time in history, there are more female athletes representing the United States than males. Consider also that 2012 is the 40-year anniversary of Title IX, the mandate that's leveled the playing field (somewhat) and allowed women to have the same opportunities to play in sports as men. I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that without Title IX, the roster wouldn't have leveled out so evenly.
Perhaps even more significant is that the Southeastern nation of Brunei Darussalan will be sending its first female athlete, Maziah Mahusin, to the Olympic games. Although Mahusin didn't technically qualify for the Olympic 400-meter run, the 19-year-old gained entry into the Olympics through the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) rule of "universality," which allows countries the option of sending athletes to the Olympics in different events if they don't have someone representing that particular event. The rule exists to encourage sports in developing countries as well as the inclusion of countries that otherwise might not be able to participate in the Olympics.
Qatar will also be sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time, and Saudi Arabia has also pledged to do the same. Recently, the Saudi government declared that there was no guarantee the country would send women to London and that no female athletes had even taken part in the qualifying games. However, under enormous pressure from the IOC as well as various human rights groups, the Saudi government officially decided to send two women to the games, making this the first year that every single country competing includes female athletes.
The two female Saudi competitors are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani (judo) and Sarah Attar (800-meter run).
"A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going," the 17-year-old Attar said in an IOC video from her U.S. training base in San Diego. "It's such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport. To any woman who wants to participate, I say 'go for it,' and don't let anybody hold you back."
We can't wait to see how they'll do!
In semi-related news, something else will be different at this year's games: uniforms! Every four years, the athletes in each country debut new Olympic uniforms. This year, Team USA's opening ceremony uniforms were designed by Ralph Lauren. Unfortunately for RL, U.S. uniforms were manufactured in China, and now Congress is up in arms about it. Apparently the outfits also aren't very popular because they appear too "European." What do you think? Check out the photo below and share your thoughts!
What are you most excited about for this year's games? Who are you rooting for? What event are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below!