At each Summer Olympics, female gymnasts are celebrated, just as female ice skaters are celebrated at each Winter Games. Good on ‘em for that, and good on the thousands of other women who compete as well…4,862 of them this time around, in fact.
But during this year commemorating the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the legislation that helped launch an explosion in the participation of girls and women in sports in the U.S., there are other, less happy developments to note.
This week, Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl found that most of the members of the U.S. Women’s soccer team would like to play next in Germany, Sweden or France. That’s because their alternative is a semi-pro league in the U.S., where the first pro league failed in 2003, and the second tanked after the 2011 season, each after only three years of operation.
In other news regarding female Olympians, Saudi Arabia sent two women to the Games. This was a first for that nation, in which women are forbidden to drive and required to get permission from a male relative before they can travel abroad or marry. Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, who competed in judo, said, “I am happy to be at the Olympics. Hopefully this is the beginning of a new era.”
She is entitled to her optimism, but the editor-in-chief of the Saudi Arabian daily newspaper Okaz indicated that perhaps Shahrkhani shouldn’t get her hopes up. “She will definitely face difficulties at home,” Hashem Abdo Hashem told the Associated Press. “The society will look at her negatively.”
Unhappily, and often unfairly, that’s the fate bound to befall some number of the athletes who’ve failed to live up to expectations at the Games. It’s another, sadder matter to be “looked at negatively” for showing up.