In an attempt to revive flagging interest in women’s badminton as the 2012 London Olympics approach, officials governing the sport have decided that its female athletes need to appear more, how to put it, womanly.
To create a more “attractive presentation,” the Badminton World Federation has decreed that women must wear skirts or dresses to play at the elite level, beginning Wednesday. Many now compete in shorts or tracksuit pants. The dress code would make female players appear more feminine and appealing to fans and corporate sponsors, officials said.
The rule has been roundly criticized as sexist, a hindrance to performance and offensive to Muslim women who play the sport in large numbers in Asian countries. Implementation has already been delayed by a month. Athletes’ representatives said they would seek to have the dress code scrapped, possibly as early as Saturday at a meeting of the world’s badminton-playing nations in Qingdao, China.
“This is a blatant attempt to sexualize women,” said Janice Forsyth, director of the International Centre for Olympic Studies at the University of Western Ontario. “It is amazing. You’d think at some point, somebody would have said: ‘Wait a minute. What are we doing?’ ”