The UCI announced on Monday that there will be full gender parity in terms of athlete numbers in cycling events at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games. There will be a total of 514 athletes – 257 men and 257 women – participating across the five disciplines of road, track, MTB, BMX and BMX Freestyle Park. The biggest change will be in the elite men's and women's road races, where 90 athletes will take part in each event for the first time in Olympic history.
The development was confirmed on Monday, via a UCI press release, following a meeting of the Executive Board of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to discuss and approve the event programme for the Olympic Games in Paris.
Last November, the UCI announced the number of athletes that each National Olympic Committee has qualified for road events during the Olympic Games in Tokyo – an event that has been postponed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The were 130 spots for the elite men's road race and only 67 for the women's road race. It showed a startling, but historic, lack of parity, which had many questioning the UCI's commitment to equality in professional cycling, but the sport governing body promised that it would aim to reach quota equality for the 2024 Games.
At the Paris Olympic Games, there will be a total of 180 spots allocated to the cycling road races, which is 17 fewer than in Tokyo. However, those spots have been redistributed and divided evenly between the elite men's and women's races, with 90 athletes in each event.
"It gives us great satisfaction to achieve what is a key objective of our Agenda 2022," said UCI President David Lappartient in Monday's press release. "Gender parity at the Olympic Games Paris 2024 sends out a strong message to our athletes and society as a whole. The UCI is committed to a policy of equal representation of women and men, both on the field of play and in governance.
"Following the introduction of a minimum salary for professional women riders, among other developments, this is another big step forward that does justice to our Federation and our sport and of which I am especially proud. I would like to thank the IOC for its support, at a time when International Federations must make an effort to adapt the organisation of the Olympic Games to the demands of the day."
When American Connie Carpenter won the gold medal in the first women's road race at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, she competed among a field of 45 women, while her compatriot Alexi Grewal won gold among a field of 135 men. Participation spots in road events hit a maximum at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, where there were 200 men and 67 women competing.
Next summer in Tokyo, there will be 130 men competing in a 234km route from Musashinonomori Park and ending at the Fuji International Speedway. The course will include the climbs of Donushi Road, Kagosaka Pass and the outer slopes of Mount Fuji, with a total of 4,865 metres of climbing.
In comparison, the women's field remains unchanged since 2004 at 67 starters. They will race 137 kilometres, also from Musashinonomori Park and ending at the Fuji International Speedway. The women's course will not go over the iconic Mount Fuji, but will include climbs over Donushi Road and Kagosaka Pass, and total 2,692 metres of climbing.
Although equal quotas in road and track events were not achieved ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, the UCI maintained that it was committed to achieving equality across all five disciplines by the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Alongside road events, gender parity has also been achieved in track cycling for the Paris Games. The discrepancy between quotas in track events for the Tokyo Games was 98 men and 91 women. However, they will be equal at the Paris Games with 95 athletes each.
The change is due to seven additional places having been allocated to participants in the women's team sprint, with the number of riders in women's sprint teams increasing from two to three – the same as the men's event. A further step towards gender parity had already been taken with the introduction of the women's Madison for Tokyo 2020.
There will be 38 participants in each of the men's and women's mountain bike events, 24 participants in each of the men's and women's BMX racing events, and nine participants racing in each of the men's and women's BMX Freestyle Park events at the Tokyo Games.
For the Paris Olympic Games, gender parity remains for those three disciplines, although the total quota of spots was reduced by four in mountain biking to 36 men and 36 women. BMX racing remains unchanged with a total of 48 spots divided evenly between the men's and women's events, while BMX Freestyle Park has increased its quota by six spots to a total of 24, and there will be 12 participants in the men's and women's events.
"The Paris Games will be the first time gender parity will be achieved for all disciplines," said Katerina Nash, who is a member of the UCI Management Committee as President of the Athletes' Commission, and is an Olympian and multi-medal winner at the UCI World Championships for cyclo-cross and mountain biking.
"I've been looking forward to a much larger women's field at the Games for quite some time now. To hear that the 2024 Games will have an equal number of male and female riders is a great news and a very important step forward in the sport of cycling," Nash said.
"We have been seeing an amazing growth across all the women's disciplines, along with impressive competition. The Olympic Games can elevate everyone's career and create more opportunities for those currently racing, as well as those who are dreaming of being part of the sport in the future."
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