Wearing spandex and a smile, girls
Two scientific analyses of past Olympic coverage put hard numbers on the cold reality of women in sports:
Your best chance to get on prime-time TV is to wear a bathing suit and look girly.
This might not seem terribly surprising during these Twitter Olympics, where American comedian Conan O'Brien tweeted his mockery American shot-putter Holley Mangold's weight, British comedian Frankie Boyle made fun on Twitter of swimmer (and double gold medallist in Beijing) Rebecca Adlington and Australian media called Oz swim champion Leisel Jones too fat to compete.
But that's just anecdotal. This is number-crunching research with an even more damning conclusion.
A study of NBC's coverage of the 2010 Vancouver Games found men received three-fifths of the air time and 75 per cent of the most-mentioned athletes were male.
The American researchers also found commentators most often said the men won because of experience and the women because of courage. Women failed, they said, because of lack of commitment.
Another study, this one of the 2008 Summer Games, found 97 per cent of the airtime women got were in six "socially acceptable" sports: yes, beach volleyball and synchronized swimming were among them. The others were track, volleyball, diving and gynmastics.
"It should be noted," the study of NBC's summer coverage said, "that it is now customary for the participants of all these events to wear the equivalent of a bathing suit."
Perhaps downhill skiing or speed skating in skivvies would help the winter athletes.