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Thu Apr 24 03:18:04 SAST 2014

Saudi women athletes to compete in London

Reuters | 12 July, 2012 13:050 Comments
Two tourists stand under Union flag umbrellas as they take pictures from London Bridge, of Tower Bridge adorned with the Olympic rings, on a wet summer's morning in central London July 6, 2012
Image by: Andrew Winning / REUTERS

Saudi Arabia has agreed to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time with a judoka and an 800m runner to represent the kingdom in London later this month, the International Olympic Committee said on Thursday.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, who will compete in the +78kg category in judo, and runner Sarah Attar will be the first Saudi women ever to take part at a Games after talks between IOC and the country paid off.

“This is very positive news and we will be delighted to welcome these two athletes in London in a few weeks time,” said IOC President Jacques Rogge in a statement.

“The IOC has been working very closely with the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come to fruition.”

In the past months human rights groups had been urging the IOC to ban Saudi Arabia from the Games if it did not agree to send women athletes.

“The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution,” said Rogge.

The decision means that every single country competing in the July 27-Aug. 12 Olympics will be represented by male and female athletes.

The conservative Muslim kingdom is one of three countries, alongside Brunei and Qatar, never to have sent female athletes but the latter two confirmed earlier this year that their delegation would include women.

The IOC said the two Saudi athletes, invited by the IOC, were entered by the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee by the official deadline of 9 July.

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