The role of women in sports, on and off the field of play, will be the central topic of an International Olympic Committee conference that will start Thursday in Los Angeles.
The fifth World Conference on Women and Sport, whose theme is "Together Stronger: the Future of Sport," is expected to draw 750 delegates from 140 countries to the J.W. Marriott at L.A. Live over three days. It will begin Thursday with a ceremony at the LA84 Foundation, which was founded with the surplus from the Los Angeles Olympics and continues to fund youth sports activities in Southern California.
Anita DeFrantz, chairwoman of the IOC's Women and Sport Commission, will participate in Thursday's welcome ceremony and in an opening ceremony at Club Nokia. She is scheduled to be joined by IOC President Jacques Rogge; Sebastian Coe, chairman of the organizing committee of the London Games; two-time Olympic figure skating medalist Michelle Kwan; and other dignitaries.
The IOC website points out that 4,637 women, or 42.4% of participants, competed in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Those were records, up from 4,329 women and 40.7% of competitors at Athens in 2004. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics included 1,044 female athletes, 40.7% of the total. That was up from 960 women and 38.2% at the 2006 Turin Games.
The IOC has 20 women among its 106 members and four women among its 33 honorary members. Its 15-member executive board has two women.
Rogge and Coe are scheduled to appear at a discussion Friday morning on leadership views on women in the world of sport. Delegates from the United Nations and the U.S. Department of State will also participate in discussions, as will Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
Three-time Olympic swimming gold medalist Nancy Hogshead-Makar, a law professor and advocate of gender equity in education and sports, will discuss the effect of public policies on promoting the sports participation of girls and women.
Title IX, the landmark legislation that prohibits gender-based discrimination in sports and educational programs, will mark its 40th anniversary this year.
Other panels will discuss medical issues, developing leadership and media coverage of female athletes.