Poised. Polite. Photogenic.
They can kiss the men on the cheek, but talk to them? That’s forbidden.
Every year a pair of Tour de France ‘podium girls’ stand either side of the prizewinners after each stage of one of the most prestigious annual sporting events in the world. The routine is familiar: the girls give flowers and fluffy toys to the victor and clap in unison before sealing it with a kiss on either side of the cyclist’s cheek.
The women always look identical - from their outfits to their hair to the colour of their nails. They wear stilettos with dresses that unfailingly sit above their knee and match the colour of the jersey worn by the rider.
They’re slim and they’re young and yes, they’re beautiful.
But this year, they’re no more.
In a landmark decision, Tour de France - which begins in Nice on August 29 - will cease the tradition of ‘podium girls’.
It is a long overdue decision. No, it’s not clear if this was a judgement based on the context of the coronavirus pandemic and the physical distancing requirements, or an acknowledgment of the tone-deaf tradition. It’s likely the former. But it’s widely reported that regardless, the custom won’t be re-introduced.
Last year, a petition protesting the use of podium girls during the Tour de France garnered nearly 38,000 signatures, stating: “women are not objects nor rewards”.
Without question, the ‘podium girls’ were treated as just that. They were seen as part of the winner’s package - an accessory for the athlete.