While this is sure to be enough of a fig leaf for the IOC, Saudi Arabia and other Islamist countries continue to restrict women's access to sport. While this report from the AP via ESPN says nothing about the judoka, Attar does not live or train in Saudi Arabia. As we predicted, the woman or women the Saudis would allow to compete seem to be women who don't actually practice sport in the country... Let us hope that what appears to be a step forward is not allowed to hide the reality of the situation of women in these countries, and in particular, women athletes.
LONDON -- Every country competing at the London Games will include
female athletes for the first time in Olympic history after Saudi Arabia
agreed Thursday to send two women to compete in judo and track and
The move by the ultraconservative Muslim kingdom to break
with its practice of fielding male-only teams followed decisions by
Qatar and Brunei to send women athletes to the Olympics for the first
"With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow
female competitors from Qatar and Brunei, it means that by London 2012
every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic
Games," IOC president Jacques Rogge said.
Saudi Arabia had been
under intense pressure from the International Olympic Committee and
human-rights groups to include female athletes. The announcement
Thursday followed months of IOC negotiations with the Saudis to bring
women to London.
The two female Saudi competitors are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.
big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of
the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going," the 17-year-old Attar
said in an IOC video from her U.S. training base in San Diego. "It's
such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides
for women over there to get more involved in sport."
has spent most of her life outside of Saudi Arabia, said she hopes her
inclusion will encourage women in the conservative kingdom that does not
allow women to vote, drive or participate in sports.
woman who wants to participate, I say 'go for it,' and don't let anybody
hold you back," Attar said in the video after running a lap on the
track wearing pants and a headscarf.
"We all have potential to get out there and get moving," she said, speaking with an American accent.
in Saudi Arabia bear the brunt of their nation's deeply conservative
values. They are often the target of the unwanted attention of the
kingdom's intrusive religious police, who enforce a rigid interpretation
of Islamic law and make sure men and women do not mix in public.
Women cannot be admitted to the hospital or take a job without permission from a male guardian.
are no written laws that prohibit women from participating in sports,
but women are not allowed into stadiums and they cannot rent athletic
venues. There is no physical education for girls in public schools, and
no women-only hours at swimming pools [Note: of course the real problem is that women are not allowed to be with men... women-only hours would merely be a discriminatory palliative to a bit worse form of discrimination].
Women cannot register for
sports clubs, league competitions and other female-only tournaments with
the government. They are banned from entering [the] all-male national trials,
which makes it impossible for them to qualify for international
competitions, including the Olympics.
Attar and Shahrkhani were entered for the London Games by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee by Monday's deadline. Neither
qualified to compete in the Olympics, but received special invitations
from the IOC "based on the quality of the athletes," Rogge said. "We've
looked at the ones who are the closest to qualifying standards and
these were these two athletes," he said. "That's always the bottom line
in all these invitations."
Rights groups hailed the decision as a
step forward for Saudi women in their quest for basic rights, but
emphasized that the fundamental problem in the Gulf country -- the legal
gender segregation -- remains firmly in place.
of two Saudi women in London is an important breakthrough, but will not
hide the fact that millions of Saudi girls are effectively banned from
sports in schools in Saudi Arabia," said Minky Worden of Human Rights
"Now is the time for the International Olympic Committee to
use its leverage and lay down achievable conditions to jump-start sport
in the kingdom."
Rogge said the IOC will continue to support female Saudi athletes with scholarships and other programs.
is not new, we have done it in the past," Roggue said. "We'll now do it
with more athletes. That's the best way to improve the skills."
The Gulf kingdom also will include female officials in their Olympic delegation for the first time.
About 10,500 athletes are expected to compete in London, representing more than 200 national Olympic committees.
IOC has been working very closely with the Saudi Arabian Olympic
Committee and I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come
to fruition," Rogge said. "The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater
gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today's news can be seen as an
The IOC said Brunei has entered one woman
in track and field, Maziah Mahusin, while Qatar has entered four female
athletes -- swimmer Nada Arkaji, track athlete Noor al-Malki, table
tennis player Aya Magdy and shooter Bahiya al-Hamad.
Qatar announced on Wednesday that al-Hamad will be the country's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony on July 27.
overwhelmed to have been asked to carry the Qatari flag at the opening
ceremony," she said. "It's a truly historic moment for all athletes."
The goal of gender equity is enshrined in the IOC's charter, but has proved difficult to achieve.
At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, 26 national teams had no women. The figure dropped to three in Beijing four years ago.
Beijing, women represented 42 percent of the athletes, and the figure
is expected to increase in London. Women's boxing is included on the
Olympic program in London for the first time.
|7-9 September 2012|
Brussels Gay Sports will offer a weekend of fun and fairplay in the capital of Europe, with volleyball, swimming, badminton, and tennis, as well as fitness and hiking.
Learn more HERE.
|26-28 October 2012|
The success of the first edition of the QueergamesBern proved the need for an LGBT multisport event in Switzerland. This year will be even bigger, with badminton, bowling, running, walking, floorball.
Learn more HERE.
|17-20 January 2013|
Sin City Shootout
The 7th Sin City Shootout will feature softball, ice hockey, tennis, wrestling, basketball, dodgeball, bodybuilding and basketball.
Learn more HERE.
|13-16 June 2013|
IGLFA Euro Cup
After this year's edition in Budapest at the EuroGames, the IGLFA Euro Cup heads to Dublin for 2013, hosted by the Dublin Devils and the Dublin Phoenix Tigers.
Learn more HERE.