With the Olympic Games opening last Friday we have so far been inundated with heats and finals displaying incredible athletes pushing their bodies to the absolute limit in their chosen discipline. […]

Crowd pleasing scenes at Horse Guards Parade

With the Olympic Games opening last Friday we have so far been inundated with heats and finals displaying incredible athletes pushing their bodies to the absolute limit in their chosen discipline.

From swimming to rowing, the display of athleticism so far has been undeniably spectacular and extremely inspiring.

Yet in amongst these terrific scenes, the predictable comments attempting to mar the amazing achievements of the athletes have been unfortunately present.

And it is safe to say that ‘comedian’ Frankie Boyle has outdone himself once again, stepping up to the mark with his vile comments against swimmer Rebecca Adlington. Boyle worried that ‘…Adlington will have an unfair advantage in the swimming by possessing a dolphin’s face’, which is a comment that I (and hopefully many others) find, quite frankly, outrageous! How dare he attempt to mock an Olympic champion and one of our best medal hopes? However, sadly, negative comments against athletes’ physical appearances are rife, with GB weightlifter Zoe Smith also falling victim to twitter taunts about her ‘manly muscles’.

GB's Golden girl

The comments are but a drop in an ocean of acerbic digs at sportswomen, and indicate that in today’s society, physical appearance can overshadow athletic talent. Nowhere is this more apparent than with sports such as the ever popular beach volleyball. In my opinion, it is in beach volleyball that we most clearly see objectification of female athletes on an Olympic scale.

The scenes at Horse Guards Parade have captivated the population (mainly the men…) owing to the lithe, athletic bikini clad players throwing themselves around the sand during the game. We have certainly not been short of cringeworthy comments over the outfits with Boris Johnson drooling over ‘semi-naked’  players ‘glistening like otters’.

With the Prime Minister amongst the legions of fans too, it would seem that the nation has become hooked on the sport where camera crews fight for close ups of pert posteriors and toned tums. Yet whilst the crowds ogle the women clad in their famous bikinis, we at home forget that other sports such as swimming, diving and gymnastics also include figure hugging kits.

In fact, gold medal winning heptathlete Denise Lewis’ kit in 2000 was actually smaller than the costumes worn by female beach volleyballers, but were comments made? No! We just celebrated her Olympic success, whilst back on Horse Guards, we have turned beach volleyball into an event of objectification!

Obviously, like everyone else, I too admire the amazing figures of players such as GB’s Zara Dampney, but I am angered that focus on a revealing kit has actually obscured the talent of the players. This was never more apparent than in an interview with Shauna Mullins and Zara Dampney, with a reporter from The Sun asking the girls to “make a promise today, that whatever the weather” they would be wearing their bikinis, so as not to disappoint their army of male fans.

This obsession with the bikini undermines the fact that these women are at the top of their game, competing in fast paced matches which are not only skilful, but also extremely physically demanding.

For me, the beach volleyball has simply highlighted the fact that we place way too much emphasis on physical appearances and sometimes neglect the athletic achievements of sportswomen. London 2012 is the first games where all countries have brought female athletes, an achievement in itself!

We should recognise any success in women’s sport regardless of kit or athletic figure.  In the words of LOCOG, the games are here to ‘Inspire a generation‘, and it is vital that this inspiration is derived from outstanding physical achievements rather than from physical appearances.