Saudi Arabia may send women to the 2012 Olympics in London.
As I wrote about a month ago, the country has always sent male athletes in the quadrennial hunt for gold medals.But according to reports in a London-based pan-Arab newspaper, Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz isn’t against women heading to London with the proviso that the sports “meet the standards of women’s decency and don’t contradict Islamic laws.”
The encouraging signs have met with approval from the International Olympic Committee.
“The IOC is confident Saudi Arabia is working to include women athletes,” the body said in a statement. “After the assessment of the level of each athlete by the IOC and the international federations concerned, a formal proposal will be submitted to the next meeting of the IOC executive board in Quebec City in May.”
Qatar and Brunei have allowed women to participate in national and regional competitions, but not the Olympics.
Qatar is set to change that policy this time around, prompted at least in part by the fact that it’s bidding to host the 2020 Olympic Games. The country will send swimmer Nada Arkaji and sprinter Noor al-Malki to England.
Brunei has said that it will send Maziah Mahusin. The 400 meter runner and hurdler won a scholarship last year that pays for her training and expenses in London for four months.
“I’m excited and nervous because there will be new coaches to work with, and the training regime will be highly intensive compared to Brunei, conducted by high-level athletic coaches,” the 19 year-old told the Brunei Times.
It remains to be seen how many Saudi women would go, and what events they would compete in. According to the New York Times, horse rider Dalma Rushdi Malhas is a possibility.
Martha F. Davis, a professor at Northeastern University School of Law, told the newspaper that she supported the idea.
“I think it’s a savvy move,” she said. “It’s trying to make sure there isn’t a groundswell of Arab Spring-like activities and being responsive to those yearnings to participate. It’s being proactive.”
If the Saudis do allow this to happen, then London may be the first Olympic Games to feature women from every country in the world.