This is a great day. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that Saudi Arabia had entered two women athletes for competition at the London 2012 Olympic Games. This means that if those athletes compete along with women athletes from Qatar and Brunei, two other countries sending women to the Games for the first time, every one of the 205 National Olympic Committees (NOC) in the world will have women Olympians.
When the Modern Olympic Movement was created in 1894, there was no thought of women competing at the Olympic Games. In fact, for the first modern Olympic Games at Athens in 1896, the record book does not list a single woman among the athletes present. From the 1900 Paris Olympic Games to the 2012 London Olympic Games, increasing numbers of women Olympians have competed. While women made up only 2.2 percent of the athletes at Paris, it is anticipated that women will comprise 45 percent of the athletes in London this summer. In fact at the London Games, women will compete in every sport on the program. The final sport to include women's events is boxing, which will have its inaugural women's bouts later this month.
In the 21st century, when women have clearly been able to achieve in all human endeavors, the world of sport had been outside the reach of a number of women in certain areas of the world. When women from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei compete in London, the door will close the on the era of exclusion from the Olympic Movement. There is a beautiful symmetry to having every Olympic nation send women to an Olympic Games in which every sport has opened its doors.
Having the opportunity to excel is important at every level of life. In the United States, most Olympians gain valuable coaching and competitive experience in school-based sports. The year 2012 is the 40th Anniversary of Title IX. It is an interesting coincidence that President Richard Nixon signed Title IX into law on June 23, the same day that is celebrated for the creation of the modern Olympic Movement. For female athletes in the United States, Title IX has been a key to the rising skill levels of women on our Olympic team.
And yet, as we work backwards towards the intermediate and novice level athletes, the picture becomes murky. At elementary and middle schools sports instruction and physical education are diminishing. Even in high school varsity athletics many students and families throughout the country are finding it increasingly difficult to meet pay-to-play requirements.
As the excitement grows and the Olympic Flame reaches the Olympic stadium for the Opening Ceremony, let's take the time to commit to providing sport for all of our school-aged children. Let's make certain that the rising generation will be able to rise to the challenge of the Olympic Movement to be faster, reach higher and be stronger.