Aussies in soup over travel gaffe

 Australia’s basketball governing body will review its travel policy after being criticised for flying their men’s team to the London Olympics in business class but putting their women’s team in economy class.

The different travel arrangements were slammed by Australian media and politicians called for the teams to receive equal treatment, while other Asian nations have also found some of their Olympic arrangements branded sexist.

“We should bear in mind that in fact, historically, more funding has been directed towards the Opals,” Basketball Australia’s acting chief executive, Scott Derwin, said in a statement, referring to the women’s team.

“But the simple fact is when a policy results in gender inequality, it’s very clearly not the right policy going forward.

“I am putting in place a review of our Olympic travel policy with the goal of ensuring there is equity between travel arrangements for the men’s and women’s teams attending future Olympics.  Part of this review will include consultations with the Opals, the Boomers, and the Australian Olympic Committee.”

Australia’s women's basketball team have won silver at the past three Olympics, while their male counterparts -- the Boomers -- have never medalled.

The criticism came in the wake of a controversy over travel arrangements for Japan’s soccer Olympians, whose world champion women also flew to London in more basic conditions than the less successful men’s team.

Though it received much international attention, the story had only limited coverage in the Japanese media, with major newspapers ignoring it or relegating it to their sports sections. One exception was the Nikkan Sports daily, which homed in on the gender angle.

“The JFA (Japan Football Association) perpetuated the sexist divide that has existed in the world of soccer for a long time,” the newspaper said, describing how the men’s soccer team enjoyed the comforts of business class while the women on the same 12-hour flight to Paris had to make do with premium economy.

It quoted a football association official as saying the difference in treatment was not due to gender, but to the athletes’ status.

“The men’s team has consisted of professionals since the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, so it’s been a rule that they fly business. The female team are amateurs, and they aren’t that big physique-wise, so they fly economy. Yet, we decided to upgrade the women’s team to premium economy because they have a lot of fans and are expected to win a medal,” the paper quoted the official as saying in a July 6 story that followed the announcement of Olympic team’s travel arrangements.

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