Far from the Snows of Sochi, Wellesley Community Members Consider the Impact of Women's Participation in Sports

February 6, 2014

Following National Women and Girls in Sports Day yesterday, the 2014 Winter Olympic Games open in Sochi, Russia, today. The Games have prompted discussion of international human rights and the effects of women’s participation in sports, especially with women, like Jessica Jerome (pictured), being allowed to compete in Olympic ski jumping for the first time. As the world prepares for the Games, the Wellesley community has joined the conversation.

This week, the Wellesley Centers for Women discussed the significance of women’s athletics on the WCW blog and a new study that demonstrates the benefits of athletic experience for jobseekers. “Sport is both a tool in the quest for political, social, and economic equality and a glass that magnifies the failings of fairness on a societal level,” wrote scholars Laura Pappano, Sumru Erkut, and Allison Tracy. “What happens on the field affects and reflects the world off the field (or the slope)—and vice versa. The cascading events of the 1970s—the rise of the women’s movement, passage of Title IX, and expanding sport and career opportunities—express the relationship.”

During the 2014 Madeleine Korbel Albright Institute for Global Affairs in January, Wellesley welcomed a host of distinguished athletes, coaches, and sports administrators to talk about the global impact of women’s sports participation sports, and in particular the Olympic movement. The fascinating discussion featured Bridget Belgiovine (director of athletics and PERA program, Wellesley); Sue Enquist (former head softball coach, University of California Los Angeles); Benita Fitzgerald Mosley (chair of organizational excellence, United States Olympic Committee); Mimi Murray (professor of exercise science and sport studies, Springfield College); and Sharon Taylor (retired director of athletics, Lock Haven University, and former member of board of directors, U.S. Olympic Committee).

Right now, Alex Azzi '15 is in the midst of her third stint working for NBC Olympics. During the Sochi Olympics, she will be a production assistant for video for www.nbcolympics.com, based out of Stamford, Conn. She is taking the semester off and will also be interning for the Paralympic Games. "I first interned during the London 2012 Olympics and then again this past summer. Ever since I was a child, I loved watching the Olympics, so it means a lot to me to be able to help tell the stories of the 2014 Sochi Games," Azzi told us. "I am particularly excited for the first ever women's ski jumping competition.  It's one of my favorite winter sports—I am absolutely in awe of those athletes... I am so happy that women finally have the opportunity to jump at the Olympics!"

Fun Olympic facts you might not know: Within PERA, Wellesley is home to two Olympians, fencing coach and three-time Olympian Gamil Kaliouby and diving coach Mary Ellen Clark, a two-time bronze medalist.

"It is a great feeling to be a part of thousands of best athletes from around the world to compete in their chosen sports," said Kaliouby of his experience at the Games in Rome, Tokyo, and Mexico City. "All of them trained for years for their shot at the Olympic glory... it is prestigious to win their medals or other awards but most important is participating in this big event." Kaliouby pointed out that since its founding in 1896, the Olympiad has been held continuously, only breaking for world war. "This is why the goal of the game is peace... freedom and friendship around the world." 
The college also prepares to celebrate its own athletic heroes with the upcoming opening of the Athletic Hall of Fame. Stay tuned.