Will the Paris Olympics be the friendliest yet for competing moms?


Paris could be the site of many Olympic Games firsts: It aims to be the first fully gender-equal Games, the first to drastically reduce carbon emissions, and will feature the first Opening Ceremonies not held in a stadium.

It may also be the most accessible to athletes with young children, and particularly athlete-moms — as more choose to compete after having children and become more vocal about the struggles of balancing motherhood with competitive sports.

For the first time, the Olympic Village will feature a nursery — to help athletes more easily spend time with their babies or infants amid grueling competition and training schedules. The French National Olympic and Sports Committee has also pledged to make hotel rooms available for French athletes who are breastfeeding, as part of a set of measures to create more space for “parenthood” within the Games.

Olympic organizers say these measures are needed to promote women’s participation in sports — and to keep up with the times.

“Society is changing and this meets our athletes’ needs,” said Astrid Guyart, general secretary of the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, told French newspaper Le Monde.

American track and field athlete Allyson Felix, who won 11 Olympic medals before retiring from the sport in 2022, told CBS the launch of the nursery, in the nonresidential area of the Olympic Village, represents “a shift in the culture” around female athletes.

“I think it really tells women that you can choose motherhood and also be at the top of your game and not have to miss a beat,” said Felix, who is on the International Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Commission.

To be sure, athlete-moms — and female athletes more broadly — can still face obstacles at the highest levels of sports, including unequal pay and lower public visibility. And change is slow: Ahead of the last Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2021, the International Olympic Committee barred family from accompanying athletes, including children who were still nursing, because of pandemic restrictions, before reversing and acknowledging the “unique situation facing athletes with nursing children,” after an outcry led by female athletes.

Individual athletes have led the charge to secure arrangements for themselves and their families at the 2024 Games — by advocating in the media and even appealing directly to political leaders. In January, Olympic medalist and judoka Clarisse Agbegnenou, 31, said she took French President Emmanuel Macron aside during his visit with the French national judo team and told him, “I would like to have my daughter with me in the Olympic Village to feel good and be fully committed in my final stretch of these Olympic Games.”

“I tried to give some advice to help us be even better … I think it was heard, I hope so anyway,” Agbegnenou told RMC Sport. She added that more changes were needed “on the issue of health, family.”

In recent years, famous athletes such as Felix, soccer player Alex Morgan and retired American tennis player Serena Williams have voiced their frustration with the fact that women’s sports are not always equally valued, compensated or promoted in media and during major sporting events.

Children and families are generally not allowed inside the Olympic Village. French Olympic organizers said “the village must remain a preserved place, where only athletes and staff coexist in a performance dynamic.”

This year, under new policies for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games, a nursery will be set up in the nonresidential area in the Olympic Village Plaza, and will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to parents of babies and infants “and their dedicated caregivers,” Paris 2024 organizers said.

France is going even further — making special accommodations for the first time this year to allow its athletes access to a dedicated breastfeeding space at a hotel near the Olympic Village, and to stay there if they want to remain with their child, the French National Olympic and Sports Committee said.

French athletes with children of any age will also have access to a shared space to spend time together during the day. And during the Paralympic Games, athletes with babies under the age of 1 will receive “guest passes” to allow their babies into the Olympic Village twice a day so they can be breastfed. The same rule will apply for athletes with children up to 3 years old when the child has special needs or disabilities.

“It’s really cool what the French Olympic Committee is doing for their breastfeeding and parent athletes,” Canadian basketball player Kim Gaucher, who helped push for the IOC to reverse its policy on nursing children at the Tokyo Olympics, said in an article shared by the Canadian Olympic Committee. “This is what we want to be the norm.”

Felix worked on a partnership with Pampers to offer athletes “access to high quality nappies and wipes, while also providing a space for playtime and family bonding” at the Paris 2024 Olympic Village nursery.

Felix told CBS, “I just knew how difficult it was to compete at the top level after I had my daughter, and some practical things were really hard.”



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