Last Wednesday, about 325 of Oxford’s finest sportswomen gathered in the Natural History museum to witness history being made as the Atalanta’s Society launched the very first official Blues presentation evening to be held in the University. Until now, despite the international prestige attached to an Oxford Blue, there has been no formal recognition or ceremony to denote its achievement. This Olympic year, Atalanta’s decided it was time for Blues to be awarded in style.
The evening saw sportswomen from over 30 sports receive Blues which, despite the commitment and often extremely high standard of the players, aren’t for’ally recognized within Oxford. Eloise Waldon-Day, current President of Atalanta’s, commented, “This underwhelming arrival of the much-vaunted Oxford Blue is emblematic of a wider issue. Up until now, the university establishment has seemed to disregard any sport that wasn’t male, or rowing. Atalanta’s was therefore delighted that the Pro-Vice-Chancellor, William James, accepted his invitation to represent the university and acknowledge the high performance of its female athletes.’
Waldon-Day went on to explain the reasons behind the inauguration of this event: ‘The Atalanta’s Committee all agreed it was a shame that there was no official presentation of Blues. I was disappointed in first year when my Blues certificate was handed to me months after Varsity before a training session, creased from someone’s rucksack. But many sports don’t order certificates at all.’
This is partly because the procedure for ordering Blues was previously left very much up to individual clubs – a problem Atalanta’s has addressed by subsidizing the certificates and centralizing the process. The sheer numbers present at awards evening itself demonstrated the enthusiasm with which such an idea was received among the clubs. Many captains, when replying to the invitation on behalf of their teams, voiced their excitement and pleasure that such an event had been organized.
Karolina Lada, the women’s volleyball captain echoed these sentiments: “The Blues Presentation Evening was a delightful and elegant culmination of a year of the highs and lows of a year in women’s sport. It proved a valuable reflection on our own accomplishments; a sense of personal and team pride shared in the beautiful surroundings”.
From the minority of men present, Out of the Blue provided musical entertainment, and gifts from sponsors Deutsche Bank produced much excitement too. There was also a display of Blues jewellery on the night, designed as a female alternative to the Blues blazers by ex-Cambridge Blue Laura Davidson.
Atalanta’s acts as a social complement to the Women’s Blues Committee, with membership offered to any girl who has competed at the highest levels of her chosen sport: in a Varsity match. This inclusive criteria of entry for women is almost entirely opposed to that of the Vincent’s Club, which admits men as much on social merit as much as sporting ability.
As such, Atalanta’s is the perfect body through which to host an evening designed to officially celebrate the achievements of Oxford’s sportswomen. Lada commented: ‘I sincerely hope this tradition will continue for the sake of mutual appreciation of the importance of sporting excellence in so many women’s lives – notwithstanding the challenges of an Oxford degree!’
Waldon-Day added: ‘Deutsche Bank were extremely accommodating in helping cater for such numbers and have agreed to sponsor the awards evening for the next few years, so this looks like the beginning of a new Oxford tradition! Word on the street is that the boys have already begun discussing one of their own for next year; a couple of centuries slow off the mark perhaps, but better late than never.’