International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge has revealed there is no chance that Saudi Arabia’s female athletes will be able to compete at the Olympic Games under the IOC Flag in a declaration that ups the pressure on the country ahead of London 2012.
There have been continuous calls for them to be banned from London 2012 since the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) refused to bow to pressure to select women athletes for their Olympic team.
It was thought there was still a chance that Saudi Arabia’s top female athletes might compete at London 2012 under the IOC banner, but Rogge has completely dismissed the idea, insisting that they are still working to solve the issue.
“There is absolutely no need to consider the possibility of the participation of Saudi women under the IOC Flag,” said the IOC President at the Sport Accord Convention. “It’s not an easy situation but there is a commitment. We are continuing to discuss the issue with them and we are hoping to find a resolution.”
SAOC President Prince Nawaf bin Faisal has continually reiterated that his National Olympic Committee “are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at the moment in the Olympics or other international championships” in a move that has frustrated the IOC.
But despite discussing the issue at length in their Executive Board meetings this week, Rogge refused to discuss banning Saudi Arabia from the Olympics at this stage.
“I don’t want to get into hypothetical questions,” he said. “We must wait and see. The athletes are trying [to qualify] for the Olympics and we would hope they will qualify in due time for the Games.”
But the announcement from Rogge that female athletes will not compete under the Olympic Flag at the Games increases the prospect of a ban as the IOC Charter prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender.
There had been high hopes that show jumper Dalma Malhas, 18, would be picked for London 2012. Malhas won a bronze medal at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics without having been nominated by her country, following an invitation from the IOC.
Saudi Arabia has face major criticism from high profile organizations including the New York-based Human Rights Watch, who published a report earlier this year damning the systematic exclusion of women from sporting activities in Saudi Arabia.
In July last year, the chair of the IOC’s Women and Sport Committee, Anita DeFrantz, criticized Saudi Arabia, as well as Qatar and Brunei, for being the last three countries to have never sent female athletes to the Olympics.
This article first appeared on May 25 in the blog, Insidethegames.biz. This blog is sponsored by the organizing committee for the upcoming Summer Olympics in London. The article is reprinted here with express permission. The blog can be accessed by going to http://insidethegames.biz.
Editor’s Note. This article was written while the writer was attending the IOC sponsored Sport Accord Convention in Quebec City, Canada. The staff of the Digest and of the United States Sports Academy do not necessarily endorse the opinions contained in the article. It is the role of a blog to present varying opinions in hopes of sparking debate on serious issues in the world of sport.