Saudi Arabian women to compete in Olympics
Saudi Arabian women will be competing in the Olympics for the first time, but barriers to end sporting gender discrimination remain.
Sarah Attar will run the 800m race and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani will compete in Judo.
Attar said: “I hope it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”
The International Olympic Committee was considering banning Saudi Arabia from taking part if they did not allow any female competitors. The committee is allowing the two athletes to take part for equality reasons, even though neither of them qualified.
Although many see this as a milestone event for women’s rights, others fail to see the significance.
Christoph Wilcke, a Saudi researcher at Human Rights Watch said: “It is unlikely that the Saudi government or the Saudi sporting authorities of their own volition will make changes inside the country as a result of sending two women to the Olympics.”
The Saudi Arabian government only agreed to allow the females to compete if they adhered to Muslim women clothing regulations. However, the International Judo Federation have ruled that Woodjan is not allowed to wear her headscarf while competing.
The authorities have also asked the athletes not to mix with men and stay with a male guardian at all times.
The IOC have been urged to give women more freedom to do sport, such as the creation of women’s gyms.
Generally in Saudi Arabia women are not allowed to practise sport and it is the only country in the world that bars women from doing sport at government schools.
This is the first Games where every country will have a female athlete to represent them, as women from Brunei and Qatar will also compete for the first time.