MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia’s basketball governing body will review its travel policy after being criticised for flying their men’s team to the London Olympics in business class while putting their women’s team in economy class.
In Japan, football officials brushed off accusations that they too had been guilty of sex discrimination after segregating the country’s Olympic football teams for a long-haul flight.
The different travel plans were slammed by Australian media and politicians called for the teams to receive equal treatment.
“We should bear in mind that in fact, historically, more funding has been directed towards the Opals,” Basketball Australia’s acting chief executive Scott Derwin said in a statement, referring to the women’s team.
“But the simple fact is when a policy results in gender inequality, it’s very clearly not the right policy going forward.
“I am putting in place a review of our Olympic travel policy with the goal of ensuring there is equity between travel arrangements for the men’s and women’s teams attending future Olympics.”
Australia’s women’s basketball team have won silver at the past three Olympics, while their male counterparts — the Boomers — have never medalled.
The criticism came in the wake of a controversy over travel arrangements for Japan’s footballers, whose world champion women also flew in more cramped conditions than the less successful men’s team.
“The JFA (Japanese Football Association) perpetuated the sexist divide that has existed in the world of football for a long time,” the Nikkan Sports daily newspaper said.
Japan’s men flew business, while the women, whose astonishing World Cup win last year lifted the spirits of a nation recovering from the deadly tsunami, sat in premium economy class on the same 12-hour flight to Paris.
The JFA told Reuters it was simply a question of professional status and practicality.
“Under the JOC (Japanese Olympic Committee) they would all fly economy but we upgraded them,” said media officer Kazutake Nishizawa, who is with the players at the Olympics.
“With the men’s professional clubs in Europe and the J-League, it’s stipulated they must fly business. The women’s game doesn’t have those conditions yet. Also, body size does come into the equation.”
Asked about a comment attributed to JFA president Kuniya Daini saying he would consider flying the women’s team back by business if the win Olympic gold, Nishizawa was tightlipped.
“(National carrier) JAL sponsors us so we would have to check for available seats in any case and hope we can upgrade some people. Not everyone can fly business class,” he said.
Columnist Minori Kitahara argued in an Asahi weekly magazine: “Sure, the men’s team probably does produce more money. But considering how much the women’s team inspired us after (last year’s) March 11 disaster, it’s absurd to discriminate.”
Last month, Indian tennis player Sania Mirza accused the national tennis federation of using her selection for the Olympics as “bait” to placate a male doubles specialist, an episode she said represented the “humiliation of Indian womanhood”.
Reporting by Ian Ransom, Alastair Himmer in Tokyo; Additional reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai, Tomasz Janowski in Tokyo; Editing by Mark Meadows