More must be done to bring women into sporting leadership roles, International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach has insisted when speaking at the 6th International Working Group (IWG) World Conference on Women and Sport in Helsinki today.
This comes at a time when this issue has provoked much dialogue throughout the Olympic Movement, even being the subject of a panel discussion at the SportAccord Convention in Belek, Turkey earlier this year.
Speaking at the Opening Ceremony of the four-day event in the Finnish capital, Bach began by citing the evolution of Olympic events for women, from their first appearance at Paris 1900 when they made up 2.2 per cent of the competitors, to London 2012 where they made up 45 per cent and countries, including Finland, sent teams with more women than men.
But Bach added that it took many more years until women were in leadership roles, and that they are now working closely with different countries of the world to bring about improvements.
In particular, he highlighted the partnership unveiled in April between the IOC and the United Nations, as well as a visit to Saudi Arabia during which he reported "signs of progress" that more girls were being encouraged to participate in sport.
"Sport has been, and continues to be, a vital tool to show that another world is possible, and that role continues to this day," he said
"Our central belief written into our Charter is that sport should be available to all regardless of gender, race, ethnicity or any other form of discrimination, including sexual orientation.
"As a sports organisation we cannot force countries to change their legislation but what we can do is give a shining example to the world of how a society based on these core beliefs should operate."
Bach described how the IOC achieved its target of having 20 per cent of leadership roles fulfilled by women by 2005, before describing that four of the 15 members of the current IOC Executive Board are female.
As well as a fellow German ex-fencer Athletes' Commission chair Claudia Bokel, these consist of Morocco's IOC vice-president Nawal El Moutawakel as well as Sweden's Gunilla Lindberg and Anita Defrantz of the United States.
Bach also explained that 22 more women have been added to the various IOC Commissions following the latest series of appointments earlier this year.
But the 60-year-old insisted they "must do more" to bring women into sports leadership roles, because we "have seen what women can do on the field of play" and now need their "intellect, energy and creativity in the administration and management of sport as well".
To do this, he invited more contributions and ideas to be made as part of the ongoing Olympic Agenda 2020 reform process.
Bach was followed on stage by the President of the International Paralympic Committee, Sir Philip Craven, while another speaker was the Finnish IOC member, five-time Olympic sailor Peter Tallberg.
Ahead of his address, Bach also met with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö at Mäntyniemi, the official Presidential residence in Helsinki.
Niinistö, a keen sports fan, also praised the IOC for its good governance and highlighted the many benefits that the Olympic Games can bring in terms of health and social cohesion, something shown by the benefits hosting the 1952 Games brought Helsinki.
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