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Saudia Arabia Grants Women Right to Compete in Olympics
July 12, 2012

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Each nation competing in this year's Olympic Games will send male and female athletes. This was in doubt until Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on female participants.

In Saudi Arabia, the dominant religious conservatives are very much against the public participation of women in sports, citing references in Islamic teachings to support their arguments. As a result, female athletes are very rarely seen and certainly not encouraged. However, the kingdom recently agreed to allow women to participate, in large part because the men's team faced a ban that the International Olympic Committee said it would enforce.

As a result, Sarah Attar in the 800-meter dash, and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo will become the first women to represent their country at the Olympics. They will no doubt conform to conservative dress codes, including a scarf covering their hair.

Saudi King Abdullah has been vocal about creating more opportunities for women to receive treatment equal to what men receive. Saudi women have become slightly more vocal in recent times, including recently publicized attempts to avoid being arrested for driving. One of the kingdom's major innovations took place in the 1960s, when they-King Faisal extended the education system to include girls as well as boys. Today, female graduates outnumber males.

Brunei and Qatar recently allowed female athletes as well. One woman will represent Brunei, and Qatar will send four women. Qatar's Bahiya al-Hamad, who will compete in the shooting competition, will also carry the country's flag in the Opening Ceremonies.

The Games run from July 27 to August 12.

The Opening Ceremonies, on July 27, and the Closing Ceremonies, on August 12, will bookend a total of 302 medal events in 26 sports. The full schedule is here.

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