Offbeat: Female athletes fly economy, their male counterparts in business

This week’s Offbeat spotlight shines brightly on BOTH Australia and Japan after the former’s women’s basketball team and the latter’s football team flew in premium economy seats enroute to Europe for the Olympics, while their male counterparts stretched their limbs out in business class.

Nadeshiko Japan, shortly after becoming reigning title-holders in last year’s World Cup. (Patrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images)

Japan set the sexist ball rolling by flying their men’s football team in business class, while their more successful female counterparts, Nadeshiko Japan, whose astonishing World Cup win last year lifted the spirits of a nation recovering from the deadly tsunami, sat in premium economy class on the same 12-hour flight to Paris.

“I guess it should have been the other way around,” Homare Sawa , the team’s star player, told Japanese media. “Even just in terms of age, we are senior,” she joked.

Sawa, who won the golden boot as top scorer in Germany and was named Fifa women’s world player of the year in 2011, suggested that the team’s best chance of securing a more comfortable flight back to Tokyo would be to win gold in London.

“When we won the world cup, our seats were changed to business class for our return flight,” she said. “I hope we can produce a good result again and be treated the same way.”

Japan’s male football team has not won a single medal in the past three Olympics.

A member of The Australian Women’s Basketball team, The Opals, leaves Tullamarine Airport for the London Olympics. Photo by Angela Wylie

As if responding on cue in this awful archaic play, Australia then flew their women’s basketball team, The Opals, who have won silver at the past three Olympics, in premium economy on their 19-hour flight from Melbourne to London while their male counterparts flew business class. Australia’s men’s basketball team — the Boomers — have never been on the receiving end of an Olympic medal.

This discrepancy is not a one-off and is reportedly part of Basketball Australia’s long-standing policy under which men are allowed to fly business class for flights longer than three hours.

The Opals have never protested publicly about this treatment and players would not go on the record, but the mother of one of the players, a Ms. Bernie Harrower, said the players do not like it and say such inequality has been a long-standing source of contention

Please join us in the 21st century, there is space for you too in this brave new world.

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