2012 London Olympics

Going to the Olympics?

Saudi Arabian women could compete in the Olympics for the first time this summer

July 02, 2012

Members of the Jeddah United basketball team could blaze the trail for Saudi Arabian female athletes at the Olympics, if their country's Olympic Committee feels the all-female team qualifies.

With the Olympic Games set to start in London on July 27, Saudi Arabian women may finally get the chance to compete. In the past, all countries except Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have encouraged both male and female athletes to participate in the Olympics. This summer, a female hurdler will compete for the first time for Brunei, and Qatar has three women set to take part in shooting, swimming and track.  On June 26, a statement by the Saudi Arabian embassy in London stated that the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee will oversee “women athletes who can qualify for the games.”

So far, only one female Saudi athlete had been set for London. But equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas was ruled out of the Olympics when her horse was injured. Now officials are looking for other female athletes to compete on behalf of Saudi Arabia. If they don’t send any women, the Middle Eastern country could face penalties or may even be banned from participating in this summer’s Olympics.

Members of the Jeddah Kings United women’s football (or soccer) team practice in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
Members of the Jeddah Kings United women’s football (or soccer) team practice in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Moving Ahead

Human rights activists and athletic groups say allowing women to compete is a step in the right direction. But some say that if females from Saudi Arabia participate in the Olympics, they could face trouble when they return home.  Saudi Arabia is a traditional Islamic society, and women are not allowed to participate in many public activities. Some female athletic groups play in secret, and women are barred from participating in national sporting events. That makes it nearly impossible for them to qualify for international competitions such as the Olympics.

With the Olympic Games only 25 days away, it’s still remains to be seen if Saudi Arabian women will compete for their country.


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