Published by the 50/50 by 2030 Foundation, University of Canberra

Research and Stories through a Gendered Lens

Training for a 2032 inclusion Olympics starts now

Jul 30, 2021 | Commentary, Leadership, Equality, Sport governance, Opinion, Sport, disability, Feature

It’s not new to anyone that the Olympics has a bit of an issue when it comes to gender equality. John Coates’ treatment of Annastacia Palaszczuk at the moment of triumph was a textbook example of what women have been putting up with for eons. But even prior to this masterclass in mansplaining, there were painful examples of sexism and discrimination.

With 11 years until Brisbane hosts the 2032 Olympics, we can hope that there’s been wholesale reform of Olympic practices by then – though in reality many of the rules about participation, uniforms and compliance which have been the source of recent grief are outside the control of the host city.

Where the host city and country do have control is EVERYWHERE ELSE. And if we start right now we could make the Brisbane 2032 Olympics the most inclusive and diverse yet.

Each Olympics Games is a decade long infrastructure, tourism and communications project, with some sport at the end. The Brisbane Olympics is no different. Slated to cost at least $4 billion, the Brisbane Games will drive infrastructure and transport investment, develop new technologies and be supported by huge logistics and promotions campaigns. What’s that got to do with gender equality, diversity or inclusion?

Well, all expenditure creates a decision point about who gets the business and what gets purchased. The same as you or I might buy from one company because it aligns with our values, every dollar spent by government is an opportunity to direct funding to particular businesses or markets, to set minimum requirements in procurement, to decide who to engage with when identifying outcomes, to set targets for inclusion and safety, and to establish reporting and accountability frameworks. This called Gender Lens Investing, Innovative Finance or putting your money where your mouth is.

Brisbane’s bid already committed to sustainability – it can also commit to diversity and inclusion through some pretty straight forward action in four core areas which are all within the direct control of the relevant governments.

First up, commitment to diverse leadership and staffing in all parts of the government machinery preparing for and implementing the 2032 Games. There should be gender equality and representation of First Nations Australians, people of colour and people with disability (including beyond the Paralympics) across internal and outward facing leadership roles and in staffing across Olympic structures. And make leaders accountable – put inclusion in their KPIs and make it a senior someone’s job to drive and report on the whole commitment.

Second, spend that huge budget well. Set minimums for procuring services and products through women, First Nations and disabled people owned and run businesses. Insist on minimum diversity standards through the whole procurement chain, ensuring that only those who comply with key diversity and inclusion standards get a slice of the action. Put Gender on the Tender for construction and other male dominated industries, creating a market for those industries to demonstrate the meaningful action they are taking to attract, support and retain women workers.

Next, engage those with lived experience to identify challenges, and commit time and funding to co-designing and implementing solutions. Work with disabled people to move beyond wheelchair accessible stadiums – let’s talk buses and toilets, ticketing websites, accessible experiences for those with hearing and vision impairments. Talk to expert women’s groups about how to make the Games safe – for those attending and working at the Games and for those at home. Work with community organizations to harness opportunities in Olympic advertising and messaging to promote positive and inclusive messages to combat sexism, racism and ablism.

Finally, represent diversity in EVERY. SINGLE. ASPECT.  In the art and designs used, in who gets to speak, in who is represented in promotional materials, in signage, ticket sales, volunteers – everything.

We’ve got 11 years to get this right, but we need to commit now. And we need to get started now.


  • Amy Haddad is the Director of Gender Inclusion, Disability and Social Inclusion at Tetra Tech International Development Asia Pacific, and the Chair of the Criterion Institute’s Power of Policy Advisory Committee.

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