Saudi king OKs women in Olympics

AFP-JIJI

Saudi Arabia, where public sports events for women are banned, will allow females to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time, its embassy in London said in a landmark statement issued Sunday.

The Saudi Olympic Committee will “oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify”, the BBC quoted the statement as saying.

The issue of women in sport remains extremely sensitive in the ultra-conservative Muslim state, where women are not even allowed to drive cars and the authorities shut down private gyms for women in 2009 and 2010.

Equestrian contestant Dalma Malhas is likely to be the country’s only female athlete to qualify for this summer’s Games in London which get underway on July 27.

The BBC reported that Saudi’s King Abdullah pushed for the policy change, but had delayed the announcement due to last week’s death of heir-apparent Crown Prince Nayef.