The Norwegian women's handball team staged an act of protest against their sport's bikini requirement in July, and that has resulted in real change for handball players around the world.
The International Handball Federation changed its regulations for female players in early October, stating that they are no longer required to wear bikini bottoms and a sports bra while competing. The rule, which previously required them to wear bottoms "with a close fit and cut on an upward angle toward the top of the leg," has now been updated to allow women to wear "short tight pants with a close fit" and a "body fit tank top" when playing. The rule will go into effect in Jan. 2022.
The protest that sparked the change
Norway's women's handball team made a statement in July when they showed up to the bronze medal match at the European Beach Handball Championships wearing fitted shorts instead of the required bikini bottoms. The team was fined 1,500 euros (around $1,700) for breaking the rules, and it got worldwide attention when the team posted about it on their Instagram.
Members of the team had said that wearing bikini bottoms made them "uncomfortable," and found the rule unfair compared to the men's rules. Men are required to wear shorts that are no longer than four inches above the knee.
The team also had the full support of the Norwegian Handball Federation. In an interview with NBC News, NHF president Kåre Geir Lio said that they've been trying to get the IHF to change their uniform rules since 2006, and that the international attention pushed their fight over the finish line.
According to NBC News, Lio and IHF President Hassan Moustafa held behind-the-scenes meetings at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to discuss the rule. Then the ministers of sports for five Nordic countries — Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland — all called for the IHF to change the rule in September. All that momentum led to the IHF changing the rule on Oct. 3.
"I think it’s good for the game, but first of all, it’s good for the women, and it’s good for how we treat each other in sports," Lio told NBC News on Monday.