Saudi Arabia announced they will be sending women athletes to the Olympics for the first time. Is the Saudis’ commitment in question since its only known London-bound athlete, an equestrian, is ineligible after having missed a qualifying deadline?
By Mike Tierney, Special to Universal Sports
In oil-rich Saudia Arabia, women and sports have long mixed like, well, oil and water. Physical education for girls is prohibited in government-operated schools. Many influential Muslin clerics maintain that athletic participation belongs in the same category as cigar-smoking and beard-growing: guys-only.
The country’s recent announcement that it would enter women in London delighted Olympics officials, who have engaged in gentle arm-twisting for years. Saudi is one of only three nations that have never sent women to compete.
However, the Saudis’ commitment is being questioned since its only known London-bound athlete, an equestrian, is ineligible after having missed a qualifying deadline. Games organizers are willing to reserve “courtesy” spots in some sports for athletically emerging nations, but skeptics wonder if the fate of their equestrian makes the pledge hollow. This much is certain: There will be no beach volleyballers from the desert nation.