Last week it was reported that although Japan’s female football team are current world champions, they flew their way over to London in Economy whilst their male counterparts lounged out in first class. This was confusing enough as why would the two teams need to travel separately, but becomes even more baffling when you think that the women’s team are medal hopefuls whilst the men are pretty much just turning up for the atmosphere. However things took on a whole new level of ridiculousness when I found this article by the Sydney Morning Herald reporting how the Australian Women’s Basketball team are also treated and made to fly second class.
The Opals are the Australian’s most successful Olympic Team, scoring medals at the last 4 Olympics and with no intention of breaking the tradition this year. In comparison, the last time the Boomers (the Ozzie men’s basketball team) won any medals was back in, well, never.
A spokesperson from Basketball Australia defended this news with the insistence that both the men’s and women’s teams choose how they want to spend their allocated budget, so if the Boomers choose to splash out on first class seats whilst the women are more frugal and buy economy tickets then that’s up to them. What the spokesman failed to comment on is whether the Boomers have a bigger budget to spend or possibly got their business class privileges thanks to an enthusiastic corporate sponsor. If it is either of these however it just highlights the on-going problems with the attitudes towards women’s sport. The Opals train just as hard, play dynamic and skilled basketball, have more medals that The Boomers yet aren’t worth as much financially as their male equivalents.
Furthermore when the story broke about Japan’s ladies being left back in economy the Japan Olympic Committee pointed out that all amateur athletes are expected to fly second class and that the men got their comfy seats thanks to being promoted to a professional team after Atlanta 1996. So despite the women outplaying the men in the medal, awards and world ranking stakes, they are still only amateurs.
The spokesperson of Basketball Australia also calmed the hordes of angry female athletes by rationalising that on average the Boomers are taller than the Opals, coming in at about 2m (6’6 in old money) so need to fly first class to get more room whilst the women only average out at 1.83m (6 foot). However I come in at a modest 5’10 (1.78m apparently) and spent the majority of a 9 hour flight in cattle class recently trying to wedge my legs under the seat in front or scrabbling over the person between me and the aisle to do laps of the plane in an attempt to stretch out my cramped up legs. It was bearable, but I wasn’t then expected to get off the flight and play an Olympic standard sports match a few days later as the Opals are. Furthermore if the seating arrangements are done on height then some of the Opal players are pushing over two metres so surely should allowed to be in first class with all the leg room and not having to fold their legs up in some sort of concertina to get into their seat. Maybe Basketball Australian should change the rules for all their basketball teams, dividing up the seating arrangements of all players, regardless of gender, by height. Or at least leg length. Sod it, why not push it all the way to the NBA, with all players under 190cm flying in economy whilst the lanky gits go first class? No that sounds ridiculous doesn’t it, almost as ridiculous as having two teams travelling in different classes depending on gender.
Image taken from http://london2012.olympics.com.au/news/opals-take-out-first-round-clash (thanks!)