In a 2006 letter to the International Handball Federation, Norway’s handball federation said the requirement for women to wear bikini bottoms was insensitive to some countries’ cultural norms and could be embarrassing for those who did not want so much of their bodies exposed, according to a copy seen by The New York Times. In handball, a sport that combines elements of soccer and basketball, goalkeepers should be allowed to wear less-revealing uniforms because they use all parts of their bodies to block shots, the letter argued.
Thomas Schoeneich, spokesman for the European Handball Federation, said on Tuesday that the organization was simply enforcing rules set by the international federation. “Change can only happen on an International Handball Federation level,” he said.
The Norwegian Handball Federation suggested changing the uniform requirements for female athletes during a meeting of the European Handball Federation in April. The motion was expected to be discussed by the International Handball Federation in November, Mr. Schoeneich said.
Ms. Welfler, the Norwegian handball player, said there were players in Norway who did not want to compete at an international level because of uniform requirements. (In domestic tournaments, Norwegian players can wear shorts.)
“That’s really sad because maybe the best players won’t participate,” she said. She also said female players were tired of being scrutinized in skimpy attire. The focus should be on the game, she said.
Janice Forsyth, an associate professor of sociology at Western University in Canada and a former director of the university’s International Center for Olympic Studies, said that certain uniforms, especially in track and field and swimming, could give athletes an edge. But in the case of beach handball, wearing shorts instead of bikinis would not allow athletes to jump higher or move faster in the sand.
“I don’t see how that argument holds any weight,” she said. “To say that wearing less clothing, as the women are required to do, allows them to be better athletes is just silly.”
Amanda Morris contributed reporting.