The Tour Down Under has made the decision to replace its podium girls with junior cyclists, according to the Australian Broadcast Corporation (ABC). The call comes after the South Australian government withdrew its support of the use of models on the podium in a drive to improve body image.
The government also removed funding the grid girls at the Adelaide Clipsal 500 motor car race.
"The Government's paying for grid girls at the same time we're putting money into mental health areas to help young women who have body image problems," said South Australia Sports Minister Leon Bignell, who, according to the ABC, has been the driving force behind the move.
"What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers."
Podium girls have long been a feature of the post-race podium presentations. However, there have been increasingly more calls to change the protocols, with some believing it is archaic, and there have been some controversial moments.
In 2013, Peter Sagan got himself into hot water when he pinched the bottom of one of the podium girls after the Tour of Flanders – he later apologised. Two years later, there was furore caused by podium girls being forced to wear bikinis for the women’s Flanders Diamond Tour.
Some organisers have opted to replace ‘podium girls’ with boys. In 2010, Dutch politicians proposed replacing the usual podium girls with podium guys when the Giro d’Italia visited. In the end, the Giro d’Italia organisers had their way and the podium presentations went on as they had done before.
However, La Course, Gent-Wevelgem and the Ladies Tour of Norway are among the races that have used podium boys.
A model agency director called the South Australia government decision sad, but SA Unions secretary Joe Szakacs said that it would not limit employment options for models.
"There's certainly no lack of opportunity for women to participate in modelling and fashion," he said. "What I think this does is make a very clear statement that there is a much more constructive, productive and influential role that women can and should play in delivering these events."
The 2017 Tour Down Under will take place between January 17 to 22.
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