Up until two weeks ago, female beach volleyball players were required by the International Federation of Volleyball (FIVB) to wear a one-piece body suit or a bikini . . . and not just any bikini, but one “with a maximum side width of 7 cm [2.76 inches].” Who knew? But now that’s all changed, as the FIVB has changed its rules to allow for “shorts of a maximum length of 3 cm [1.18 inches] above the knee and sleeved or sleeveless tops.” This new rule will be applied in all official beach-volleyball tournaments, including the 2012 Olympic Games, which will take place this summer in London. The reason behind the change, as stated on the FIVB site ”is to respect the custom and/or religious beliefs.” While it is easy to think of countries with customs and religious beliefs that would have kept them from competing in revealing swimwear, the US as a whole would not be included in that category. But it will be interesting to see if individual senses of modesty will affect American uniforms. It will also be interesting to see if anyone is challenged or disqualified during an extremely close match for wearing too-long shorts. Where exactly does the knee start, anyway?
(“Uniform Change for All Beach Volleyball Events,” Fèdèration Internationale de Volleyball, March 18, 2012)
This isn’t the only recent change in women’s sports uniforms. The International Federation of Association Football (FIFA), has now decided to allow women to wear head coverings during football games (soccer games for us Americans). In June of last year, the Iranian team was disqualified from playing its Olympic-qualifying games against Jordan and Vietnam because they refused to remove their hijabs. FIFA considered the head coverings, which also wrap around the neck, as choking hazards. (Three Jordinian players were also banned for wearing hijabs, but the rest of their team stayed in the competition.) But now, following an effort begun by FIFA vice president, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, and the development of a newly designed hijab, which uses Velcro instead of pins, the rule has been changed. Willfried Lemke, the UN secretary general’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, praised the decision, saying it will give everyone “an equal chance to participate in football, without any barriers and regardless of gender, race, ability, age, culture or religious beliefs.”
(Jens Juul Petersen, “Football Now a Game of Inclusion for Muslim Women,” Common Ground News Service, March 20, 2012; Graham Dunbar, “Hijab Scarf Rule Comes to a Head as Iranian Women’s Soccer Team Banned,” Toronto Star, June 6, 2011)