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Year of the Woman in 2012 London Summer Games

By Paul Haven

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, July 26 2012 8:49 p.m. MDT

And then there's Zara Phillips, the 31-year-old granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II, who is competing in equestrian and expecting a few royal fans to show up to cheer her on.

Some women are making headlines off the court as well.

Victoria Pendleton, another British hometown girl, has parlayed her looks and growing fame into a marketing bonanza, appearing in shampoo ads and a racy lingerie shoot in which she proclaimed herself proud of her ultra-muscly thighs. One look at the photos and it's easy to see why.

And U.S. women's soccer goaltender Hope Solo, who is pitching a memoir she just wrote, turned heads with some comments to ESPN the Magazine about widespread sex in the athletes' village during the Beijing Olympics.

Still, there have been several reminders in the lead-up to the competition that total equality hasn't arrived just yet.

Australia booked its women's basketball team to fly to the games in coach, while the men got business-class treatment. Ditto for Japan's women's soccer squad, which had to squeeze into economy despite the fact they are world champions, while the men, who are not expected to medal, stretched out at the front of the plane.

And DeFrantz said there is much work to do before women have an equal say in the business of the games. The 100-strong IOC has only 14 women, though one, former hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco, on Thursday became the first woman to be elected a vice president.

"On the field of play, we are nearly there," DeFrantz said. "It's in the decision-making sense — in the rooms and halls — that we have more work to be done."

Tennis legend Billie Jean King, one of the world's leading voices for women's sports, said the strides made by American female athletes stem directly from Title IX, the 1972 U.S. law that banned sex discrimination in educational programs — including sports — that receive federal funds.

"What we are seeing with the London Olympics is a reflection of the growth and impact of Title IX," King said, adding that American women might not only outnumber men at the Games — they could very well out-medal them, too.

"We now have a stronger foundation for future generations of female Olympians," she said, "and we need to remain committed to sustaining this movement and the progress we are making, here in the USA and globally."

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