[London, 27 July 2012] Yesterday, 26 July, Mr Tomas Sithole, Director of International Cooperation and Development of the International Olympic Committee, met with the organisers of the “London 2012: Justice for women” events.
Attended: Martha Jean Baker, Vice-President of the EWL (European Women’s Lobby), Anne-Marie Lizin, honorary President of the Belgian Senate, Annie Sugier president of the LDIF (League for the international Women’s Right) and delegate of the CLEF (French Coordination for the EWL), Linda Weil-Curiel, General Secretary of the LDIF, and the young Lisa-Marie Taylor of the London Feminist network, Sundas Hoorain of One Law for All.
The “London 2012: Justice for women” 7 demands were recalled to Mr Sithole with a special focus on the symbolic gesture expected of the President of IOC: that he presents the Gold medal to the female winner of the Marathon as he does for the male winner.
Mr Sithole took note of this demand and stressed that the IOC, in its own way, has taken actions resulting in the improvement of the general situation of female athletes. He would not make any commitment regarding a significant increase of the number of women in IOC decision-making bodies (in spite of 1996 IOC resolution on this issue).
The issue of the dress worn by some athletes was raised as challenging the principle of political and religious neutrality in the framework of the Olympics.
Mr Sithole argued that it belongs to the International Federations to decide what dress they would allow. He also insisted that the IOC could not intervene in that matter, its only role being the organisation of the Games. ..
Mr Sithole was challenged on the following contradiction:
- On one hand, President Rogge stated that wearing the hijab or the turban for Sikhs or the cross for Christians, is “totally compatible” with the Olympic Charter ( l’Equipe 24 07 2012)
- On the other hand Mr Lassana Palenfo, specially named to deal with religion matters at the London Games, strongly stated that “the Games must remain non political and with no display of religion. Should we give in, we would have to accept special derogations and requests of Buddhists, Jewish believers”. Adding “Religion must remain a private matter”.
Mr Sithole said that he “could not give an answer on that question”.
He did not with either to make any statement about the conditions put to the participation of Saudi female athletes by the head of the Saudi CNO, prince Nawaf ben Faysal: ie the respect of three Charia Law requirements (female athletes should wear Islamic dress, be under the guardianship of a male relative and not mix with male athletes).
The delegation informed Mr Sithole that the day before, letters containing the 7 demands were brought for each member of the Olympic Movement. Mr Sithole said he would make sure that the letters were delivered to the addressees.
Mr Sithole closed the meeting by committing himself to give a complete report on the raised issues at the meeting that IOC will hold on August 8.
- LDIF: Annie Sugier, 00 33 (0)6 38 39 42 92, Linda Weil Curiel, 00 33 (0)6 888 44 009
- EWL: Martha Jean Baker, 00 44(0) 20 74 36 56 39
- London Feminist Network: Lisa-Marie Taylor, 00 44 (0)7 976 304 264
- One Law for All: Sundas Hoorain, 00 44 (0) 771 54 55 705
photo: paolo d