Members of the European Parliament have accused the International Olympic Committee and the International Swimming Federation of enforcing "institutional structures and rules that exclude people of color and Black women specifically." In a letter to the two organizations, European officials took issue with their refusal to approve the use of Soul Caps, swim caps made for Black hair, at the Tokyo Olympics. By banning these swim caps, the group feels that the IOC and FINA are adding to the "stigmatization of Black hair" and perpetuating "institutional inequalities, especially targeting Black women."
The IOC and FINA have faced intense scrutiny within the last few weeks after they initially banned the use of Soul Caps at the 2021 Summer Olympics because they claimed the cap did not "follow the natural form of the head." At the end of last week, FINA announced that it would review its ban of the swim cap, but many are still questioning why it was banned to begin with.
“We want to be included, all we’re asking for is to have the option to have a piece of equipment that has been designed to cater to the issue of our hair, which is a significant barrier to participation in aquatics a whole,” Danielle Obe of the Black Swimming Association said.
“If FINA was aware that that was a major barrier for our community, I think that decision would have been made slightly differently."
Alice Dearing, the first Black swimmer to represent Great Britain at the Olympics, was prepared to wear a Soul Cap while competing. However, it is unclear whether or not she will have the opportunity to do so. Moving forward, FINA officials expect to "speak with the manufacturer of the 'Soul Cap' about utilizing their products through the FINA Development Centers."
"FINA expects to make its consideration of 'Soul Cap' and similar products part of wider initiatives aimed at ensuring there are no barriers to participation in swimming, which is both a sport and a vital life skill," the organization added.
The 2021 Summer Olympic Games are expected to begin in Tokyo, Japan on July 23.