5 Reasons Why the 2012 Olympics Matter to Progressives

The UK celebrated its National Health Service, a progressive single-payer care system, at last month's Opening Ceremony for the Olympics.
The UK celebrated its National Health Service, a progressive single-payer care system, at last month’s Opening Ceremony for the Olympics. (SOURCE: Flickr/shimelle)

With the pomp, circumstance and 40-foot Voldemort at the opening ceremony behind us, we progressives are at leisure to lazily watch some aggressive ping pong – and, as always, over-analyze situations. So let’s ponder what the 2012 Summer Olympics mean in terms of our ideals. (That’s right – we do this stuff so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.)

A lot of what we’ve found so far has been to our liking, so hats off to the only city to host the Summer Games thrice in the competition’s storied history. They’re doing something right. Check out our list of five progressive facts about London 2012 to brighten up your day and warm your overly sympathetic heart.

1. For the first time ever, every participating country is fielding female competitors.

While it’s a little shocking to believe that we had to wait until 2012 to see this happen, we have to remember that the international community includes a host of nations where women’s rights remain a gray area. In one arena, though, it seems that every nation has finally agreed to conform to a universal standard of equality. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the latest countries to include women in their Olympic delegations. As Campus Progress has reported, the path to this point was convoluted, and might not mean as much as we’d like it to, but this level of inclusion and equity makes London 2012 look more like the progressive future we’re hoping for than any prior Olympic Games.

2. Women’s boxing is now an Olympic sport.

Only one Summer Olympic sport was not open to women at the Beijing Games in 2008: boxing. While the International Olympic Committee added women’s wrestling to the list of sports open to women in 2004, they did not approve the inclusion of female boxers until the summer of 2009, which means London 2012 is the first chance for women to distinguish themselves in the field at the largest athletic tournament in the world. Limited divisions still restrict women’s opportunities, but the sport itself will very much be a visible part of the Games.

3. Organizers are focusing on making their historic event compatible with eco-friendly principles.

While the final environmental toll of an extravaganza the size of the Olympics can only be determined well past the final contests, this year’s organizers have prioritized going green, trumpeting policies like reusing lampposts and bricks already on the Olympic Park site and obtaining 20 percent of the energy needed to run the Games from renewable sources. Meanwhile, food policy wonks will be encouraged to hear about the Games’ new rules demanding that most food served be demonstrably sustainable and sourced locally.

4. The opening ceremony celebrated the quintessentially British National Health Service.

A single-payer system like that in England is still a far cry from the most progressive pieces of health legislation passed in the United States, and some on the American right assert that Britain’s National Health Service is a mess of a system that Brits don’t even like. But that didn’t stop Olympics opening ceremony organizer Danny Boyle from incorporating an appreciation for the health care agency into the opening ceremony, with dancing doctors and nurses on hand to attend to the nation’s youth. Boyle told The Guardian that he believed universal healthcare was “an amazing thing to celebrate.” We’re fairly certain those kids do too.

5. Women outnumber men on the U.S. Olympic team.

You’ve probably heard about this by now, but in case you hadn’t, this is a thing – there are 8 more female athletes representing America at the Olympic Park right now than there are males. While gender inequality still mars society at a number of levels, it looks like Title IX didn’t disappoint in its mission to make the athletic world less male-dominated. Another fun fact: One of those incredible women, Megan Rapinoe, is a lesbian who came out early last month because “people want – they need – to see that there are people like me playing soccer for the good ol’ U.S. of A.” Going off yesterday’s victory, we think she’s playing it pretty well.



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