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BMW Olympics ‘sexism’ row dismissed on Twitter
A Twitter storm that saw BMW accused of sexism for favouring male athletes in free car deals has been dismissed by tweeters and commentators.
The row started after Team GB gold medal rower Anna Watkins revealed on BBC Newsnight that male gold medal rowing winners had received BMWs but women had not.
Watkins quickly admitted it was a coincidence, “because it’s the individual (BMW) dealers that choose who to give cars to, so it wasn’t any grand strategy”. This wasn’t enough to stop the debate spiraling on Twitter, though – fuelled by BBC Economics Editor Stephanie Flanders.
Flanders tweeted: “Shock discovery on Newsnight tonight: GB male rowers – even ones that didn’t qualify 4 Olympics – got BMWs. Women didn’t. Even with 3 golds.”
She later tweeted: “BMW have given cars to women in other sports. But there was a clear gender split with the rowers. I wonder whether BMW will now re-think.”
Flanders later admitted Watkins was correct in her clarification: “On BMW: their main scheme WAS gender neutral. But “by chance” individual dealers only backed male rowers. So no CENTRALISED sexism, then.”
BMW corporate communications manager Michelle Roberts took to Twitter and defended the company. “Dealers sponsor athletes local to them, coincidence that no famous rowers,” she said.
“Other sports, e.g. cycling, we sponsor more women than men.”
BMW, official car supplier of the London 2012 Olympics, provided 150 cars to athletes on two-year lease deals, through the BMW London 2012 Performance Team scheme. 70 of these were women, largely reflecting the gender makeup of Team GB.
The Performance Team includes London 2012 Team GB athletes and other athletes who did not make the Olympic Games.
Most athletes were selected by local dealers in their area – before the games started. A BMW statement confirmed: “the provision of cars to individuals is in now way related to their performance at the Games”.
Decisions on car loans were made before the Games, not after – meaning the athletes’ performance in London 2012 could have no bearing on which received a car.
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