The Olympics are beginning soon and who better to bring the voices of Scottish Women to your screen. The stories of Scottish female competitors past and present all in one place.

Here at Scottish Women in Sports, over the course of the Olympics and Paralympics we will be showing the very best that the Scottish side has to offer. From the story of Scotland’s youngest Gold Medallist – Bella Moore, from Govan who competed in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm to Katherine Granger who 100 years later competed for Team GB in the Beijing 2012 Olympics, also winning Gold.

Speaking to Dr Fiona Skillen, a Senior Lecturer in History at Glasgow Caledonian University about women’s participation in the Olympics. We look back over the history of women’s role in the Olympics, and how they were confined to certain types of sports and the number of female parity was significantly lower than male ones. It’s not until this year, at Tokyo, that there will be 49% of competitors are that are female. While we may not agree with the patriarchy which has held back women’s sport in this competition, looking at the History helps us understand why it has take so long for these changes to occur. 

Women’s place in the Olympics, like many historical changes, has been turbulent and difficult. In the first modern Olympics in 1896 women weren’t allowed to compete at all. It was for very ‘obvious’ reasons. The founder of the International Olympic Committee Pierre de Coubertin claimed that women’s sport was against the laws of nature: “The most un-aesthetic sight human eyes could contemplate. The Olympic Games must be reserved for men for the solemn and periodic consultation of male athleticism, with female applause as the reward”.

Look don’t get me wrong I feel bad for the male competitors as well… A round of applause is suppose to suffice? No thank you, I’ll take my medal please.

The following Olympics in Paris (1900) saw 22 women compete in sporting events, 22 out of 997 contestants. But what makes this worse, it wasn’t even the IOC recognised women being allowed to compete, it was that the locals organising the events allowed the women to compete.Not until the London Olympics of 1908 were women officially allowed women to compete. But of course only in sports that were defined as feminine, such as tennis, golf, figure skating and swimming. It was believed by the male governing that women existed solely for the purpose of reproduction and would cause damage to their reproduction value and femininity by taking part in sports.

Boring I know. Unfortunately the trends still continue today with no modern Olympics having even close to an equal split of gender ever. There are of course many amazing people trying to even things out and the women already competing as well as the men who help to change the discussion and discourse around women, non-binary and transgender people in the Olympics.

Number of athletes at the Summer Olympics by gender 1896-2016 (

Over the coming months, SW/S will be bringing you ‘Scottish Women in Tokyo’, our coverage from top Scottish contenders, past pioneers and our coverage will continue into the Paralympics.

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