The Olympic Games: A Force for Social Change

The Olympic Games: A Force for Social Change

Donna de Varona

10.23.2008

Donna de Varona

Donna de Varona’s goal in life was to swim. During the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, she – at age 13 – was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic Swim Team. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics she won two gold medals in the 400-meter individual medley and in the 4 x 100 freestyle relay, and by the time she was 17 she had broken 18 world records in swimming. She is widely regarded as one of the great swimmers of her generation and was named the Female Athlete of the year in 1964 by the Associated Press and United Press International.

In 1965, she became the first female network sportscaster under contract at ABC. In 1968, she became the first woman commentator for the Olympics on network television. Among her many accolades, Donna was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame, US Olympic Hall of Fame, and Woman's Hall of Fame. In 1968 she became the first woman to do television commentary at the Olympics.

Donna helped found the Women's Sports Foundation which is a charitable educational organization dedicated to ensuring equal access to participation and leadership opportunities for all girls and women in sports and fitness. She is also a member of the President's Commission on Olympic Sports and served as chairman of the 1999 Women's World Cup Soccer Tournament Organizing Committee.

Olympic gold medalist Donna de Varona discusses the impact of the Olympic movement on global social change for equal opportunity. Particularly she addresses the impact of the Games on women's issues such as the 1972 passage of Title IX in the U.S. and making opportunities available for women in traditional patriarchal societies.