‘Sport Appeal, Not Sex Appeal’: Olympic Broadcasters Told To ‘Curb’ Sexualization Of Female Athletes

The Tokyo Olympics head of broadcasting now says that coverage of the Games should attempt to “minimize” the sexualization of female athletes in light of athlete complaints and demands to change uniform regulations so that female athletes’ bodies are more fully covered.

Coverage, Olympic Broadcasting Services CEO Yiannis Exarchos said Monday, should focus on “sport appeal, not sex appeal.”

“You will not see in our coverage some things that we have been seeing in the past, with details and close-up on parts of the body,” Exarchos said, according to Fox News. “What we can do is to make sure that our coverage does not highlight or feature in any particular way what people are wearing.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) does not govern how athletes dress and does not set uniform regulations. According to the IOC’s rules and regulations, the “sole and exclusive authority to prescribe and determine the clothing and uniforms to be worn, and the equipment to be used” is left to members of athlete “delegations on the occasion of Olympic Games.”

France 24 reported, earlier this month, that the IOC “is not responsible for establishing and enforcing uniform regulations. Instead, it’s up to international federations for each individual sport to decide what the appropriate attire for each gender group is.”

Those uniform regulations have led to a number of controversies. The Norwegian Women’s handball team was denied its request to compete in tight-fitting shorts rather than bikini bottoms, leading to a 1500 Euro fine for each player that refused to wear the uniform as prescribed by the European Handball Federation. Germany’s female gymnasts trade the typical long-sleeved leotards worn in international competition for long-sleeved, long-pant unitards, though the uniforms are still form-fitting.

The German Federation said that the skin-tight unitards were a visual protest against “sexualization in gymnastics.”

One Paralympian, Olivia Breen, noted an opposite problem after being chastized at the British Olympic qualifiers for wearing adaptive clothing that was considered “too skimpy” by a judge, even though the shorts were made specifically designed for Breen.

The IOC is telling reporters not to focus “unnecessarily on looks, clothing or intimate body parts,” particularly when reporting on events “such as beach volleyball, gymnastics, swimming, and track — where female athletes’ uniforms can be scant and skimpy,” the Associated Press noted.

The IOC also updated “’Portrayal Guidelines’ to steer all Olympic sports and their rights holders toward ‘gender-equal and fair’ broadcasts of their events. Advice includes ‘do not focus unnecessarily on looks, clothing or intimate body parts’ and reframing or deleting a ‘wardrobe malfunction … to respect the integrity of the athlete.’”

In order to fight what the IOC considers “sexism” inherent in the Games, the Olympic Committee has also updated its schedule of events, featuring more men’s and women’s mixed-gender events, and holding the women’s volleyball and handball finals after the men’s.

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