Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Sunday, 15 February 2009

Jowell calls for Olympic equality

Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell wants gender equality at the 2012 Olympics

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell wants rules that prevent women from competing in as many Olympic or Paralympic events as men to be changed by the 2012 Games.

Ms Jowell said it was "wrong" that under current regulations men could compete in 40 more events than women.

She has written to UK Sport chiefs asking them to help end "gender discrepancies".

A rule change would allow women to compete in heavyweight wrestling and men in synchronised swimming.

It would also give women the opportunity to enter boxing - and men rhythmic gymnastics.

Equal opportunity

Under Olympic and Paralympic regulations, men can compete in 164 events while women can only enter 124.

Ms Jowell said: "I think it's wrong that women can't compete in as many events as men. Women's sport has come on leaps and bounds so it's high time there was equal opportunity at the Olympics."

She said she had discussed the issue with Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, who was only able to compete in one sprint cycle event at last year's Beijing Games while team-mate Chris Hoy won three golds in the discipline.

In Olympic track cycling men are allowed to compete in seven events, while women can enter just three.

Ms Jowell and sports minister Gerry Sutcliffe have written to Baroness Campbell, the chair of UK Sport, asking them to investigate a "gender discrepancy" and to press for equal opportunity at London 2012.

Changes to Olympic sports are made by the International Olympics Committee (IOC), usually seven years in advance, at the same time as the Games are awarded to a host city.

Disciplines within a sport can only be changed if there is an agreement between the IOC and respective international sports federations.

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