The politics of the Sochi Paralympics

I should be reporting on this for Wikinews, but I am not.  At the present, despite the military situation in the Ukraine with what appears to be an effective Russian invasion? incursion? foreign power putting a military force into to protest its ethnic people who make up 60% of the local population… the trains between the Ukraine and Russia appear to be operating normally.  This includes in the Crimea and along other parts of the border.

Over in Canada, the Government has ordered their Ambassador to Russia to leave Moscow because of the ongoing situation.  On a Paralympic note, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has announced he and members of his Cabinet do not plan to attend the Sochi Paralympic Games because of the Ukrainian situation.

The United States Government has advised its citizens to avoid the Ukraine (especially the Crimea region), and the USMNT has moved a game scheduled for today to Cyrpus (where a referee was recently beaten).  No extra alerts for Americans going to Russia though. I’m not feeling particularly unsafe about going, but I am a bit queasy given everything.  Russia is not LGBT friendly.  The USA doesn’t have a particularly good relationship with Russia at the moment, and Russia culturally has always been held up as one of the great threats to the United States.  I grew up in the dying throws of the Soviet era, but I can remember the picture painted of Russia, and it wasn’t pleasant.

That said, on a Paralympic level, I have information on tickets to the opening ceremony.  I have registered to attend the IPC Hall of Fame induction ceremony.  I’ve watched a ton of Team USA Paralympic videos. I’ve read more on the rules of the various sports and the classification process.  I feel ready and knowledgeable, and like I should be able to do some good reporting.


Women’s national teams are under represented on English Wikipedia compared to men’s teams

Women’s national teams are under represented on English Wikipedia compared to men’s teams.  Of the 260 countries that have one or more national team articles about a country, 36 countries have zero articles about women. 78 countries have 75% to 99% of their articles about men’s national teams.  That accounts for 43% of all countries.

To be fair, some sports have more of an international appeal than others.  Floorball is mostly European.  Handball is European and African.  Netball and cricket are played in Commonwealth countries.  Baseball and softball are more popular in Oceania, Asia and the Americas. Kabaddi is played in Asia.  Some sports are not gender segregated or include requirements for both men and women on the field.  Some national teams are for individual sportspeople, and may include all men, all women or both.  This includes sports like swimming, athletics, badminton, and skiing.  The total number of available sports from country to country is thus unlikely to be equal. At the same time, some sports with national teams and world championships do not have articles about national teams.  Think underwater hockey.

Complicating this analysis, there is the issue that for many countries, there are likely to be more men’s teams than women’s teams for cultural reasons.  Some countries have historically held back against supporting women and their right to participate in sport.  In at least one country, there is a fatwa prohibiting women from participating in soccer.  Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have historically been opposed to women playing sport.  Some countries have limited resources and opt to spend money on men’s teams instead of women’s teams.  Getting an accurate percentage of men’s versus women’s national teams in the real world is probably near impossible.

In any case, the percentage of women’s national teams articles is low compared to men’s national team articles and the problem is more acute for some countries than others.  The United States has 62 national team articles, 31 for men and 31 for women.  In contrast, Spain has 40 national team articles, 26 for men and 14 for women.

If you’re working on developing content about women’s national teams,

Arabian Gulf, Bonaire, Falkland Islands, Federated Malay States, Federated States of Micronesia, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Female, Isle of Man, Jersey, Kiribati, Kosovo, Leeward Islands, Marshall Islands, Martinique, Mayotte, Monaco, Nauru, Niue, Norfolk Island, North Vietnam, Rhodesia, Saint Helena, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint-Martin, Serbia and Montenegro, South Vietnam, South Yemen, Straits Settlements, Taiwan, Tokelau, Virgin Islands, Wallis and Futuna, West Germany, West Papua, Windward Islands is the list of countries  with zero articles about women’s national teams but articles about men’s national teams.

Countries with 75% to 99% of their national team articles about men’s teams include

Costa Rica, Djibouti, Lithuania, Mauritania, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Peru, Rwanda, Senegal, Solomon Islands, South Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos Islands, West Indies, Iran, Yugoslavia, Chile, El Salvador, Mali, Mauritius, United States Virgin Islands, Uzbekistan, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Burundi, Cyprus, Estonia, Gambia, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Somalia, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Tuvalu, Cameroon, Iraq, Brunei, Jordan, Malta, Syria, Vanuatu, Israel, American Samoa, Benin, Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Macau, Sierra Leone, Oman , New Caledonia, Pakistan, Laos, Libya, Maldives , San Marino, Timor-Leste, Togo, British Virgin Islands, Gabon, Palestine, Yemen, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Andorra, Cambodia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Ghana, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar.  Working on creating articles about these countries would also be good.

In some cases, there is a real challenge because as mentioned earlier, many of these countries may not actually have many women’s national teams.  This does not necessarily need to be an impediment.  If there is a large discussion in the media about the team not existing, then the non-existent team may be notable.  This was the case for the Saudi Arabia women’s national football team.  These types of articles can be good because they can bring attention to the plight of women from a feminist perspective.