Olympics Reportedly Eliminating Long-Standing Event To Increase Gender Equity

by Josh Lanier

The Olympics has told race walking to take a hike. The Tokyo Olympics will be the last Games to host the event, which has been an Olympic sport since 1932.

The International Olympic Committee decided the race doesn’t fit with its mission of gender equality, Fox News reported. The 50km race walking competition is the only event in the Olympics without a women’s equivalent.

The IOC will add a mixed-team race walk at future Games rather than just create a women’s 50km race. However, when the committee will add that event is unclear.

“We are working with the I.O.C. on a Race Walk Mixed Team event but there is still a considerable way to go to create a new format that will work for the sport of athletics and meet the I.O.C.’s criteria for the Olympic Games,” Loic Malroux, a spokesman for World Athletics, said in a statement, according to the New York Times.

Dawid Tomala of Poland won the final gold medal in the event on Thursday. He finished the 31-mile walk in just over 3 hours and 50 minutes.

Elliott Denman, an American racewalker who participated in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, lamented the end of the competition. He called it “the longest and toughest of all events.”

“Unless the situation takes a drastic U-turn somewhere down the road, and don’t get your hopes up about it – the (Tokyo) 50 km champion will be the 20th and last in an amazing series. Sadly, you’ll need to go to the list of ‘discontinued events’ to get the names of all those past winners. The event has been full of all these gutsy guys over the years, slogging it out on the roads of Olympic cities from those ‘down under,’ to those “up top” he wrote on a running blog.

Critics Slams Olympics for Cancelling Event

Several race walking athletes were furious with the IOC’s decision.

“It’s a terrible mistake by the IOC and World Athletics. I think we showcased today that this event belongs in the Olympics,” Canada’s Evan Dunfee, who won the bronze medal, told reporters.

“The easiest solution would have been to allow women to race 50K at the Olympics,” he added. “It’s heartbreaking.”

Silver medalist Jonathan Hilbert, of Germany, said the IOC should have consulted with the athletes before killing the event.

“The problem is that the people in the suits in the World Athletics and IOC, they don’t speak a lot with the athletes. We’ve heard it out of maybe the newspapers or from coaches that they will remove the 50K,” he said. “I’m really sad.”

While the IOC said it was removing the event because they wanted to have a more inclusive competition, ratings may have played a role in the decision.

Fox News said the 50km race walk is one of the least-watched events. And most younger viewers consider the race to be too slow.