Modern Games signals a new era for female athletes

If we could describe this summer’s Olympics in a word, it would be “modern.”

With its bright and jagged logo inspired by media, communications, and fashion; its captivating and confusing opening ceremony; and its futuristic-looking mascots, the London Games aspired to highlight prevalent issues like health care, sustainability, and the effects of technology.

Britain’s modern approach and theme of “inspiring a generation” was spot-on in setting the tone for this summer’s Games. In particular, the female Olympians seemed to take this theme to heart. With 204 countries and 10,820 athletes participating, the 2012 Summer Olympics marked the first time every country sent a female competitor to at least one of the events.

In categories like volleyball, gymnastics, weight lifting, and boxing, women took the Olympics by storm. Of course, as with most shifts in gender paradigms, there was backlash — sexist online comments, the suggestion that female boxers wear skirts to make it easier to differentiate genders, and other such statements.

But the internet goes both ways, and female athletes are letting their voices be heard via interviews and blog responses like British weight lifting champion Zoe Smith’s viral blog post addressing sexist virtual commentary.

The unprecedented popularity that the live and television audiences showed for women’s sports, and boxing in particular, is not likely to die down.

Sure, the Games didn’t go perfectly; organizational flaws caused some seating to remain empty, some Olympians were disqualified for various reasons, and many local taxi drivers were annoyed by the street changes. But overall, the Games ran smoothly. The crowd was warm and enthusiastic, and the organizers focused on sustainability in terms of infrastructure, most of which will be dismantled, recycled, or sold. The London hosts succeeded in keeping the centuries-old tradition of the Olympic Games modern, and aware of social undercurrents.