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Thu Apr 24 08:52:46 SAST 2014

Saudi women given Games go-ahead

Sapa-AFP | 25 June, 2012 09:310 Comments
The Olympic rings are shown during the closing ceremony of the Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games on February 26, 2006 at the Olympic Stadium in Turin, Italy
Image by: Brian Bahr / Getty Images

Saudi Arabia, where 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 statement issued on 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 jumping contestant Dalma Malhas, 18, 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.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the only three countries never to have sent women athletes to the Olympics.

But Qatar has already announced it will send a three-woman team to London.

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