A 50-50 prospect: Commonwealth Games offers medal equality

FILE - In this file photo from March 16, 2006, Australia's Anna Meares pedals on the way to winning the cycling track Women's 500m Time Trial Final at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Australia. Meares, a multiple Olympic and world champion cyclist, won gold medals at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games after kicking off her career with a bronze at the 2002 edition in Manchester. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant, File)

GOLD COAST, Australia — For Commonwealth Games organizers, the Gold Coast presents a case for all things being equal.

Gold Coast 2018 chairman Peter Beattie previewed the games which start Wednesday by promoting the 50-50l gender balance for the medals on offer at the 21st edition of the Commonwealth Games.

"This is the first multisport event ever where there will be the same number of medals for women as for men — it has not happened at the Commonwealth Games before or the Olympic Games," Beattie said. "So we are going to make history. There are 133 women's and 133 men's events, and nine mixed open events, for example, in shooting and lawn bowls. That is why we are very proud of this."

At Glasgow four years ago, women were competing for 48.5 percent of the medals. With the addition of three additional events in cycle, three in boxing and one in weightlifting, organizers say parity has been achieved.

Anna Meares, a multiple Olympic and world champion cyclist, won gold medals at the 2006, 2010 and 2014 Commonwealth Games after kicking off her career with a bronze at the 2002 edition in Manchester.

"From an athlete's perspective, what I have achieved over 16 years at four Commonwealth Games, women today can do in two," Meares said. "That speaks volumes for the opportunity being given to our female athletes.

"It is wonderful to be part of this generation and to be part of the change and inclusion."

Kaye Scott, the only member of Australia's boxing team for 2018 who competed at Glasgow four years ago, said the increase from three to six weight divisions for women was "a wonderful move in the right direction for equality in female sport.

"Eventually I'd love to see the full 10 weight divisions offered."

As well as the extra events in cycling and boxing, another big boost to women's participation was the inclusion of of women's rugby sevens. The condensed version of the sport made its Olympic debut in Rio de Janeiro, where Australia beat New Zealand for the first women's gold medal and Fiji won the inaugural men's title. The Australian women's team remains a medal favorite now on home soil.

Commonwealth Games Federation chief executive David Grevemberg said gender equality has been at the forefront of the organization's work.

"This is just the beginning of a major shift," he said. "We have come a long way. In the Hamilton 1930 Empire Games (in Canada) we had seven events for women and only 12 percent of the total medals.

"We have also moved the dial on opportunities for women to officiate. In Gold Coast 2018, for the first time we have some of our federations reaching 50-50 for the number of men and women technical officials.

"We have made enormous jumps."

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More AP Commonwealth Games coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/CommonwealthGames

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