The Two-Way
2:40 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Saudi Arabia Will Send Two Women To The Olympics

Under international pressure, Saudi Arabia has decided to send two women to the Olympics in London.

That means that for the first time ever, the Olympic games will include women from every competing country. NPR's Howard Berkes filed this report for our Newscast unit:

"Saudi Arabia now joins Qatar and Brunei as the last countries to enter women into Olympic competition. Seven athletes once banned because of their gender will compete in judo, track, swimming, table tennis and shooting events when the London Olympics begin later this month.

"International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge says the IOC has been striving for gender neutrality at the games. Rogge negotiated with resistant Saudi officials.

"Human Rights Watch calls the development an important precedent for Saudi hardliners who restrict the rights of women. The London Olympics will also be the first in which women compete in every sport. Boxing was the last sport to add women competitors."

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the two women are judo athlete Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.

The Olympic Committee told The Wall Street Journal the announcement came so late, they did not even know the ages of the athletes.

Back in July, Ahmed Al Omran spoke to Lina al-Maeena about the "first-ever international sports exchange with Saudi Arabia."

Al-Meena talked about just how contentious the issue of women in sports is in Saudi Arabia. Ahmed reported:

"When the ministry of education revealed that the country was thinking about introducing sports to state-run girls schools, conservative clerics responded with fatwas (religious edicts) warning against it and saying it would lead to moral disintegration of women.

"On his website, preacher Mohammed al-Habdan published a list of fourteen "evils" that would result from introducing sports to girls schools, including taking the veil off and the "masculinazation" of women."

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