Saudi Arabian women will be permitted to compete in the Olympics at London 2012 for the first time after the Royal Family bowed to pressure and endorsed their participation, it was recently announced.
A statement released by the Saudi Embassy in London said that the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC) will “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify” for the first time since they made their debut in the Games at Munich in 1972.
With the Games due to start on July 27, the only Saudi female competitor at London 2012 is expected to be showjumper, Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who competed at the Summer Youth Olympics in Singapore two years ago under an International Olympic Committee (IOC) flag.
The American-born rider won a bronze in those Games and is considered an outstanding prospect.
But IOC President Jacques Rogge made it clear last month that he would only allow Saudi women to compete under their own country’s flag.
Some campaigners had urged Rogge to ban Saudi Arabia from the Olympics until it allowed Saudi women athletes to compete because sexual discrimination is not permitted under the Olympic Charter.
The historic decision, backed by the Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, was reportedly taken 10 days ago but the announcement was delayed due to the death of the Saudi heir to the throne, Crown Prince Nayef.
It was only in February that Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, the President of the SAOC and a member of the IOC, said he was “not endorsing” female participation in London as part of the official delegation.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have all never had a female athlete at the Olympics although Qatar has already announced it will send a three-woman team to London and Brunei is expected to include 400-meter hurdler Maziah Mahusin as part of their team of two for the Games.
Contact the writer of this story at duncan.mackay@insidethegames. Insidethegamws.biz is a blog of the organizing committee for the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. The article is reprinted here with permission of the editors. The Summer Olympics begin in less than five weeks.
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