25 Jun 2012

Saudi Arabia's one woman Olympic show

So, as revealed in Snowblog some weeks ago, Saudi Arabia is to be allowed to get away with fielding one woman in the London Olympics.

She’s an equestrian competitor. This has somehow let the International Olympic Committee off the hook by allowing the fiction that in some way the Saudis are allowing women generally to compete for a place in the Olympics.

Last night the Saudi Olympic Committee let it be known that the female equestrian competitor was likely to be their only participant because no other woman had reached the required Olympic standard.

And no wonder, Saudi women have been specifically banned from access to using public sports and athletics grounds for the past two years. The opportunities for women to reach professional standards in athletics and sports generally in the kingdom are limited indeed.

The IOC took a very much more aggressive approach when it came to South Africa’s attempt to field a ‘whites-only team’ in the 1960s and banned them from the Olympics in 1964. For some reason these days the IOC sees no comparison between the racial discrimination in South Africa then, and today’s gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia.

In common with the desire to drive cars (a banned activity for women in Saudi), women have also sought, and been frustrated in their desire to compete in international sporting events.

Should one woman horse rider, who still has to reach the ‘required standard’, be allowed to suggest a Saudi women’s Olympic ‘spring’?

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**Update: Thanks to one of our blog readers for pointing out that Saudi Arabia’s female equestrian, Dalma Rushdi Malhas, was actually born in Ohio in the US and not in the kingdom itself.

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