No more podium girls at Tour Down Under

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When the men’s UCI WorldTour kicks off in Australia in January, there’s one thing we won’t see: race winners flanked by podium girls.

In the interest of creating a more positive image of women in sport, the South Australian Government withdrew its support of the use of podium girls at the Santos Tour Down Under, Australia’s biggest cycling event, as well as funding for the so-called “grid girls” at Adelaide’s Clipsal 500 motorcar race.

According toAustralia’s ABC News, this move, driven by South Australian Sport Minister Leon Bignell, is about sending a consistent message about body image.

“The Government’s paying for grid girls at the same time we’re putting money into mental health areas to help young women who have body image problems,” Bignell said.

“What we actually want to do is inspire girls and young women who come to the motor racing to be car drivers or to be mechanics or to be engineers.”

Giro d'Italia 2011 - Partenza tredicesima tappa "Splimbergo-Grossglockner"
Podium girls at the Giro d’Italia. Photo by Cor Vos.

Podium girls are a long-standing tradition in cycling. Officially known as “hostesses”, these models present and assist race winners with their jerseys and trophies before planting a ceremonial kiss on their cheeks.

Yet the use of podium girls is met with an increasing amount of disdain every year due to the objectifying use of women, and the continued display of women in sports as trophy holders instead of athletes.

Some races like Gent-Wevelgem, Tour of Norway and La Course have replaced podium girls with podium boys for the women’s events, which has been no less controversial.

Chantal Blaak receives kisses from the podium boys at Gent-Wevelgem.
Chantal Blaak receives kisses from the podium boys at Gent-Wevelgem.

So for the 2017 edition of the Santos Tour Down Under, jersey winners will be instead be joined on stage by the future of cycling. Already a common practice in tennis and soccer, the awards will be presented by junior athletes.

As the Santos Tour Down Under is the first event of the 2017 WorldTour, it will be interesting to see if other races follow suit, and replace their podium girls also.

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