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from The Great Debate UK:

London 2012 – a chance to nurture strong female role models

tessa-- Tessa Jowell is Britain's Minister for the Olympics and London and has held a variety of senior government posts. She has direct responsibility for delivery of the government's Olympic programme. Jowell has been a member of parliament for the Labour Party since 1992. The views expressed are her own. --

In 1896 a Greek woman called Stamata Revithi decided to run the inaugural modern day Olympic Marathon in Greece. Arriving in the Village of Marathon she was told by officials that she was not allowed to compete in the race the next day as the entry deadline had expired.

Today historians agree that the real reason for her exclusion was her gender - women were not allowed to compete in any of the events in the inaugural Olympic Games. This did not deter Revithi, who ran the marathon by herself the day after the main race, running her final lap around the outside of the main stadium as she wasn't allowed inside to officially mark the culmination of her five and a half hour run, in fact it would take nearly 100 years before women could compete in an Olympic Marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

This kind of discrimination seems unthinkable now but more than 120 years after Revithi ran through the streets of Greece women are still barred from over 40 Olympic events. In Paralympic sport the figures are worse with women unable to compete in nearly 50 per cent of events.