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August 14, 2012Olympics fan David Lau is also Associate, Member Relations at Catalyst Canada. This year, David has been most impressed by the growing participation and accomplishments of women athletes from around the world.

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I have a confession to make: I am an Olympics junkie. I have been from the moment I saw the Canadian Olympic Team, white hats and all, march into Calgary for the opening ceremonies in 1988. I’ve watched every Olympics since, witnessing Silken Laumann’s courageous rowing bronze in Barcelona, Donovan Bailey’s gold in the 100m in Atlanta, and of course the outstanding performance by Canadian athletes in Vancouver two years ago.

Suffice it to say, I follow the Olympics.

But as a highly publicized event, the Olympic Games often fall under the microscope of public scrutiny, and therefore can be the subject of controversy. Some of the debate centres upon gender equality, and specifically the inclusion of women in certain sports and by different sporting bodies. London 2012 has been a breath of fresh air in this regard.

A number of developments have made these games possibly one of the greatest for diversity and inclusion. For example, women’s boxing was placed on the schedule for the first time, thereby eliminating the last exclusion women faced in the summer Olympics. Ironically, rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming are women-only sports at the Olympics, so maybe more change is still in order?

London 2012 is also the first time that all participating countries had women athletes as part of their national teams. And while this change was mandated by the International Olympic Committee, it is nonetheless a step in the right direction. As evidenced by the much talked-about performance of Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, women athletes are just as talented as men. With the inclusion of women from every country participating in the games, young girls everywhere have role models to look to and think, “I want to play sports, and I can be in the Olympics one day.”

The Globe and Mail declared London 2012 as the “Year of the Woman”, but I’m hoping that the increased inclusion at these Olympic Games continues, so that equal participation by women and men will no longer be out of the ordinary.

What’s your take on this Olympic “Year of the Women”? Any takeaways and insights to share?