June 25th, 2012
02:37 AM ET

Saudi Arabia to let women compete in Olympics for first time

Saudi Arabia will let its female athletes compete in the Olympics for the first time, its embassy in London said.

Until now, Saudi Arabia was one of three countries that did not allow women to participate in the games.

The other two - Qatar and Brunei - also reversed course this year and said they will send athletes to the London games that begin July 27.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to reaffirm its support for the sublime meanings reflected by Olympic Games and the cherished values of excellence, friendship and respect that they represent," the Saudi embassy in London said in a statement, announcing its decision.

The statement added that women who qualify for the games will be allowed to participate.

The decision is a rare concession for a kingdom where women are banned from driving.

They also cannot vote or hold public office, though that will change in 2015.

Women in Saudi Arabia also cannot marry, leave the country, go to school or open bank accounts without permission from a male guardian, who usually is the father or husband. Much of public life is segregated by gender.

When it came to sports, female athletes were barred from the Olympic games because they would be participating in front of a mixed-gender crowd.

The Saudi embassy did not say what prompted the kingdom to change its mind.

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Filed under: Olympics • Saudi Arabia • Sports • World
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. banasy©

    Are they actually going to let the athletes wear something different than their customary burkas?
    I'm not trying to disingenuous; I really want to know...

    June 25, 2012 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  2. fernace

    I was thinking the same thing, banasy! What will their sports gear look like! Full body bathing suit, perhaps!?

    June 25, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  3. TC

    How avant-garde of them.

    June 25, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Enoch Was Right

    I can't wait to oggle their gymnasts! Mmmmmmm....

    June 25, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Randolph FInder

    There are a few Olympic Sports where a Saudi woman could participate while keeping everything but the face and hands covered without being impeded to a completely ludicrous degree: Archery, Equestrian and Shooting...

    June 26, 2012 at 12:29 am | Report abuse |
  6. Nathanael

    Fantastic, thanks for posting.

    August 12, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |