The woman who took women to the Games and beat Coubertin

Olympic history also has its illustrious forgotten ones.Georges Averofffor example, is little more than a footnote, even though it made it possible for the Games to start (paid for the first edition, nothing less). However, at least it has a state in Athens. Other names, however, are stillr fully incorporate to Olympic history.

One of them is that of a person who should appear at a height similar to that of Pierre de Coubertin, because he managed to get the Olympic world to add, somewhat to reluctant at that time, an element that today we consider fundamental: the competition feminine. The Baron of Coubertin participated in the opinion common misogynist in his time. He declared that at the Olympic Games “the only mission of women is to crown the victors”and of similar opinion were his successor in the IOC, the Count of Baillet-Latour, and the contemporary president of the International Athletics Federation, Siegfred Edstroem. Some competitors they sneaked in 1900, 1904 and 1908. And in 1912in a tough negotiation with the Swedish organizers, who wanted it this way, they had to allow the swimmers competed in Stockholm. However, the high levels of the Olympic Senate continued refusing in order for women to participate in the King Sport of the Games: the athletics.

But after those Games a capital event of the 20th century took place: World War Iand while the men went to the front to kill and kill each other, the women occupied the positions that they left on the second line, making it possible for the company kept functioning. Thus, things that in 1913 seemed to many ‘radicalisms’ of the movements feminists and suffragetteswhich in those times had as their primary objective the conquest of right to vote for women, had become everyday realities in 1919: women occupied the Public spaces and although there were no shortage of attempts to turn back the tide – the fascist and Nazi movements tried, and the traditionalist reactionary movements never accepted it – it was already unstoppable.

Pierre de Coubertin, creator of the IOC and the Modern Olympic Games

But, in the sport, there was a lack of momentum to convert reality into legality. In the Olympic world, that impulse was given Alice Milliat.

In 1920Alice Milliat He was 36 years old, and had been promoting women’s sports in the Paris region, organizing clubs and competitions – and among them the soccer-. After World War I he founded the Women’s Sports Federation International (FSFI)which ended up becoming an organization rival of Coubertin’s IOC for his insistence on deny inclusion of women in the Olympic Games on an equal footing with men. The Baron, in theory, had it easy: all he had to do was decline since the IOC was autonomous and, in reality, private. But Milliat had calibrated the situation well and used the weapon that Coubertin feared most: the disintegration of the Olympic Movement.

Thus, in 1922 Milliat organized the I Women’s World Games -A year before, a pilot competition had already been organized in Monaco-. 20,000 spectators attended and 1926 A second edition was carried out in Gothenburg (Sweden). On that occasion the participation and impact was even greater, effectively taking shape the danger of a split which is still the enemy number one of the Olympic movement.

Finally, the IOC and the IAAF they gave up: in Amsterdam 1928 women would be allowed to participate in athletics, the king sport of the Games and symbol of integration. At the moment, only in five tests: 100 meters, 4×100, 800 meters, discus and high jump. That didn’t seem enough to Alice and her followers, and so the Women’s World Games continued. in Prague 1930 and London 1934 until the progressive expansion of the Olympic program for women -obtained through negotiation with the FSFI- made this was dissolved in 1938, considering his mission accomplished.

But just because women had entered the ‘noble zone’ of the Games did not mean that would have been well received. In the highest Olympic circles it was considered that they had entered almost by force and they tried to block as much progress as possible. An example was in that same 1928 the case of the Japanese Kitue Hitomi, one of the best athletes in the world at the time, had enrolled in 100 meters and discus. But after failing to win a medal, he decided to also participate in 800 metros, considering that their participation had been poor. It wasn’t her test, she ran it for the first time and yet she won the medal. plata.

But after entering the finish line faintedand as such it occurred with others athletes – with the means of training At the time, these collapses were not uncommon in sports either. masculine (he Cross of Paris 1924 it was a real slaughter)- was considered according to studies ‘scientists‘that athletics was harmful for women and the calendar remained very limited for almost forty more years: the 400 metros were until 1960 the mayor distance allowed for women. This way of thinking was analogous, for example, to that of Franco’s sports authorities in Spain: from 1939 to 1963 No women’s events were held in the Spanish Athletics Championships. When the marathon Swiss Gabriela reached the Olympic Games in 1984 Andersen He fainted in the race. There were no longer voices speaking of feminine ‘weakness’ but of ‘heroismo‘, as normally happened when faced with similar images male. Times had changed.

Panathinaiko Stadium. Stamatha Revithi ran there

But before Even than Milliat, there was a woman willing to break the barriers of sporting machismo. She was greekit was called – according to the press of the time and reported by the Olympic historian Kay Lennartz– Stamatha Revit. He entered the original Olympic marathon, the 1896wanting to run it. was not allowed because of her feminine condition, so the next day, April 11, 1896, took the same route in lonely, after obtaining a document signed by the mayor of Marathon in which the departure time was indicated. Afterwards he tried to get the competent bodies homologated his achievement but he did not achieve it. There are also references that another woman known for Melpomene He ran one of the marathons with which the original route was prepared.

Nothing else is known about Stamatha Revit but, her existence established, perhaps she deserves a higher place in Olympic history like Alice Milliatwho as we see had more power than Coubertin, without even having been member of the COI. The first ones arrived in the 80s, at the time of Samaranch.

Currently the IOC aims to gender parity and surely, even without Milliat’s impetus, integration with the time, but as we see, Milliat’s importance was maximum. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt that the IOC recognized his figure more than it does, which is very little.

Alice Milliat He died in Nantes, in 1957. A year before, in Melbourne 1956, they participated in the Olympic Games. 376 women out of 3,314 competitors. 11%. And it had cost…


Davide Piano

An experienced journalist with an insatiable curiosity for global affairs on newshubpro

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