1. Ancient Greece: The very first Games included no women.
Married women were not even allowed to watch, and they faced a penalty of death if they did. Unmarried women were allowed to attend.
2. 1896: The first Modern Olympics in Athens take place with no lady competitors.
Women did not compete because of beliefs at the time that if a woman competed in athletics: “She wouldn’t be able to bear children; that her uterus would fall out; that she might grow a mustache; that she was a man, or wanted to be one.”
3. 1900: Women compete for the first time at the Paris Olympics.
Just 19 of them got to participate in tennis and golf, compared with the 1,206 men who competed in the Olympics that year.
4. 1912: Women’s swimming is added.
The British women’s team wore these sheer swimsuits, which were seen as scandalous. No Americans competed since they were only allowed to compete in events where they could wear long skirts.
5. 1928: Women run a 800 meter race, but six of them collapse.
After six women collapsed after completing the 800m race, officials decided that “even this distance makes too great a call on feminine strength.” (An 800m race is only half a mile.) After this, the Olympics barred women from running races longer than 200 meters.
6. 1960: Women can finally compete in races longer than 200m again.
At the Rome games, women finally get to run an 800m again – and Wilma Rudolph becomes “the fastest woman in the world.”
7. 1999: Afghanistan banned from Olympics.
As the Taliban bans women from competing in athletics, the country is banned from the Olympics.
8. 2000: Women allowed to compete in weightlifting.
Women competed international weightlifting competition for decades before, but 2000 was the first year there was a separate Olympic sport for women.
9. 2004: Afghanistan returns, two women compete.
In 2004, along with the fall of the Taliban, Afghanistan was welcomed back into the Olympics. Two women competed.
10. 2004: Kuwait sends its first woman to the Olympics in Athens.
At 16 years old, Danah al-Nasrallah competed in the 100m sprint. She finished third-to-last, but apparently had never competed in that race before. Being not particularly religious, she wore shorts and a t-shirt.
11. 2008: Ruqaya Al Ghasara of Bahrain wins 200m sprint.
In 2004, she was the first woman to wear a hijab while competing in the Olympics. In 2008, she said: “I hope that my wearing the hijood sports top will inspire other women to see that modesty or religious beliefs don’t have to be a barrier to participating in competitive sports.”
12. 2012: Activists call for Saudi Arabia to be barred from Olympics.
According to Humans Rights Watch, discrimination in the Olympics of any kind is not allowed in the Olympics, allowing for the argument that Saudia Arabia, which bars women from participating, should be banned. Qatar and Brunei have also never sent a woman to the Olympics, but activists are less concerned with those countries because they don’t explicitly ban women from competing.
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