Picture: ATTN/Facebook
Picture: ATTN/Facebook

Female athletes make up 45 per cent – almost half - of sportspeople participating in the Rio Olympics this year.

Yet despite the fact that all these female athletes are competing in one of the biggest and most well-respected sports events in the world, they don’t quite get the same treatment.

Cambridge University Pressanalysed over 160 million words from newspapers, blogs and social media posts, and found some rather abysmal results.

Men are three times more likely to be mentioned in a sporting context compared to women, who tend to be described in terms of their marital status, appearance and age.

Indeed, earlier this year former Great Britain cyclist Jess Varnish alleged that Shane Sutton, British Cycling’s technical director, dropped her from the team and told her to “move on and get on with having a baby.”

But hers is not an isolated incident, and female athletes have been subject to a restrictive and gendered reporting practise.

ATTN sums it up perfectly in the following video:

There was the #Twirlgate incident last year, when tennis player Genie Bouchard was asked to “twirl” around and show off her outfit during the Australian open.

A few days later, Serena Williams was asked to do the same.

Because who cares about their performance as sportspeople, when what viewers really want to see is a re-enactment of a Disney sing-along?

On Friday NBC decided to broadcast not only the Olympic opening ceremony in Rio on an hour delay, but adopted this same tactic for showing events like swimming and gymnastics.

Never mind that Twitter and Facebook will be blowing up with spoilers, because according to the news channel's chief marketing officer John Miller:

The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey.

It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.

So… women don’t like sports?

Picture: Steve Bardens/Getty
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