The Transformation of Women's Olympic Sport into Olympic Spectacle
When you think of an Olympic sport or sports event, a female athlete is as likely to come to mind as a male athlete. In the sport of track-and-field, Jackie Joyner-Kersee is as likely to come to mind as Carl Lewis; in the sport of swimming, Janet Evans is as likely to come to mind as Mark Spitz. In the sports of figure skating and diving, Nancy Kerrigan likely comes to mind before Brian Boitano, and Mary Ellen Clark before Mark Lenzi.
Obviously, gender-balanced name recognition is a relatively new phenomenon and most likely limited to Olympic sport and professional tennis, two arenas that actively promote female athletes to the same degree, if not more so, than male athletes. Most sports enthusiasts would be hard-pressed to identify a female athlete as readily as a male athlete in most collegiate and professional sports.
While male athletes still dominate the Olympic Games in participation, female athletes often win more than their proportionate share of medals and receive more than their proportionate share of Olympic glory in the forms of press attention and public adulation. For example, female athletes from Eastern Europe traditionally win as many or more medals than their male team members, particularly in the Winter Games. Seldom has as much adulation and/or attention been bestowed on male athletes as it has on gymnasts Olga Korbut, Nadia Comaneci, and Mary Lou Retton; figure skaters Katarina Witt, Nancy Kerrigan, and Tonya Harding; and