Female Olympians Fly Economy

2008 Women's Ausralian Olympic Basketball TeamSports governing bodies in Japan and Australia have been criticised following complaints of discrimination relating to their Olympic teams. Male Olympians for the countries were allowed to fly in business-class to London for the Games, while their female counterparts were stuck in cheap economy-class.

The world champion women’s football team from Japan was flown in economy-class, but the male football team was put in business-class on the same flight. The women’s team was given premium economy seating for the 13-hour flight to Paris. Homare Sawa, the 2011 FIFA women’s world player of the year, told Japanese media in the French capital that the situation should have been the opposite. They are senior to the men’s team, even just in terms of age. When they won the World Cup, their seats were changed to business class for the flight home. She hopes they can perform just as well and be treated in the same way, she added.

The Japan Football Association said that this was because the men are professionals. Media officer Kazutake Nishizawa said that they would all fly economy under the Japanese Olympic Committee. However, they upgraded the men’s professional clubs in Europe and the J-League, which is stipulated. These conditions aren’t required for the women’s teams, while body size is also taken into account. Japanese Football President Kuniya Daini has said the women’s team will be flown home in business-class, but Nishizawa says Japan Airlines sponsors them, so they will have to check for available seating. They hope to upgrade some players, but not everyone can fly in business-class, he added.

There were also complaints about the women’s Australian basketball team being flown in premium economy to the Games, while the men were allowed to fly business-class. However, there were two Jayco Australian Opals players who didn’t fly in premium economy – Lauren Jackson, an ambassador with the carrier involved; and Liz Cambage, who paid for the business-class upgrade herself. Of the two teams, the women are the most successful – winning silver medals at the previous three Olympics. The men, however, have never won a medal at the Games.

Basketball Australia, the nation’s governing body for the sport, said on Friday that it would review their travel policy with the aim to ensure travel arrangements are justified between the men’s and women’s teams in the future. Acting chief executive Scott Derwin says the policy around budgets for every national team gives the leadership group of the teams some discretion about how their budgets are spent. This includes travel arrangements. They should also keep in mind that more funding has historically been directed towards the women’s team. However, when a policy results in inequality among gender, it clearly isn’t the right policy.

Kristina Keneally is due to take the role of Basketball Australia’s chief executive. The former New South Wales political leader said that she welcomes the travel policy review. There’s no excuse for sporting teams to be treated differently when they are competing at the same level. The variation is more glaring considering the women’s basketball team is one of the world’s best.

Australian chef en mission Nick Green says the Australian Olympic Committee gives return economy fares to every team member with the official airline sponsor. They are comfortable for the sports to take care of their athletes. They give them the subsidy for travel and the sports determine how that’s used, he added.




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