Photo Credit: London 2012 Olympic Website

Tomorrow is the opening ceremony for the London Summer Olympics and for the women participating in the games, there are many impressive firsts.

All competing nations in the Olympic Games will have female representation for the first time ever thanks to Saudi Arabia’s decision to allow two female athletes to compete in the games (One is a distance runner and the other will compete in the over-78-kilogram category of judo).

This is a milestone for the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as they have been proactively supporting measures to increase women’s participation in the Games, especially from Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, countries where women have limited rights.

For the first time in history, the US Olympic Team features more women than men – with 269 females and 261 males making up the American team. Of the 269 female athletes, 13 of them are mothers.

And with the addition of women’s boxing, the 2012 Olympic Games will be the first in which women will compete in every sport on the program.

A Long Road

It has been a long road for female athletes to gain eligibility to compete in this elite international sporting event, which was originally founded exclusively for men. Women were initially barred from competing in the first modern Olympics in 1896, but a Greek woman unofficially ran the marathon that year. It wasn’t until 1984 that women competed in Olympic marathons.

When women were first allowed to compete in the 1900 Olympics in Paris, they were limited to two events: lawn tennis and golf as they were seen as “upper class” sports that could maintain the femininity of the women athletes.

Hard work and determination, not only on the competitive playing fields but also for the progression of women’s athleticism is finally paying off and it’s wonderful to watch this from the sidelines, even before the Games begin.

If we can change the participation of women in the Olympics, we can do the same in other important arenas. I can’t wait to see more women in leadership positions in both politics and business around the world.

There will be many hurdles to gracefully jump over, naysayers to prove wrong, and reputations to uphold and defend to get where we need to be. But the common thread of determination resonates with us all.

As a Gen-Yer, I hope to see the type of female participation that we are about to enjoy in the upcoming Olympic Games for women in many other arenas in countries around the world.

And I’m hoping it will all happen in my lifetime.