Will the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris be the friendliest yet for athletes’ mothers?

Will the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris be the friendliest yet for athletes’ mothers?

Paris could be the scene of many Olympic firsts: it will be the first Games to have full gender equality, the first to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and the first opening ceremonies not to take place in a stadium.

In addition, this sport may be the most accessible to female athletes with young children, and especially to mothers of athletes, as more and more of them are choosing to take up competitive sport after the birth of their children and are becoming more open about the difficulties of combining motherhood and competitive sport.

For the first time, there will be a nursery in the Olympic Village to give athletes the opportunity to more easily spend time with their babies or toddlers amidst their busy competition and training schedules. The French National Olympic and Sports Committee has also pledged to provide hotel rooms for breastfeeding French athletes, part of a series of measures to create more space for “parenthood” during the Games.

Olympic organizers believe these measures are necessary to encourage women’s participation in sport – and to keep up with the times.

“Society is changing and this meets the needs of our athletes,” Astrid Guyart, secretary general of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, told the French newspaper Le Monde.

American athlete Allyson Felix, who won 11 Olympic medals before retiring from the sport in 2022, told CBS that the opening of the daycare center in the non-residential area of ​​the Olympic Village represents a “culture shift” in the way female athletes are treated.

“I think it really shows women that they can choose motherhood and at the same time perform at their best without losing their composure,” says Felix, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes Commission.

Of course, sports mothers – and female athletes in general – Obstacles still exist in elite sport, including unequal pay and lower public visibility. And change is slow: Before the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, the International Olympic Committee banned family members of athletes, including breastfeeding children, from accompanying them due to pandemic restrictions, before reversing its decision and allowing the “Unique situation for athletes with breastfeeding children”, after an outcry among female athletes.

Individual athletes have taken the initiative to make arrangements for themselves and their families at the 2024 Games. – by advocating for the cause in the media and even appealing directly to political decision-makers. In January, 31-year-old Olympic medalist and judoka Clarisse Agbegnenou said she took French President Emmanuel Macron aside during his visit to the French national judo team and told him: “I would like to have my daughter with me in the Olympic Village so that I can feel good and be fully engaged in my final phase of these Olympic Games.”

“I tried to give advice that would help us to be even better… I think they were heard, I hope so,” Agbegnenou told RMC Sport, adding that further changes were needed “in terms of health and family.”

In recent years, famous female athletes such as Felix, footballer Alex Morgan and former American tennis player Serena Williams have expressed their frustration that women’s sport is not always equally valued, rewarded and promoted in the media and at major sporting events.

Children and families are generally not allowed to enter the Olympic Village. The French Olympic organizers said, “The village must remain a protected place where only athletes and staff coexist in a performance dynamic.”

This year, as part of new guidelines for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, a daycare center will be set up in the non-residential area on the Olympic Village Plaza, open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for parents of babies and toddlers “and their dedicated caregivers,” Paris 2024 organizers said.

France is going even further and is offering its athletes special conditions for the first time this year to give them access to a The French National Olympic and Sports Committee said they have a private breastfeeding room in a hotel near the Olympic Village and can stay there if they wish to stay with their child.

French athletes with children of all ages also have access to a common room where they can spend time together during the day. And during the Paralympics, athletes with babies under one year old will receive “guest passes” that allow them to bring their babies into the Olympic Village twice a day so they can be breastfed. The same rule applies to athletes with children up to three years old if the child has special needs or disabilities.

“It’s really cool what the French Olympic Committee is doing for its breastfeeding and parentless female athletes,” said Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who lobbied the IOC to change its policy on breastfeeding children at the Tokyo Olympics, in an article shared by the Canadian Olympic Committee. “This is what we want to make the norm.”

Felix worked in partnership with Pampers to provide athletes “access to high-quality diapers and wipes while providing a space for play and family” in the Paris 2024 Olympic Village kindergarten.

Felix told CBS: “I just knew how difficult it was to compete at the highest level after having my daughter and some of the practical things were really difficult.”