Saudis bow to pressure and field women for first time

 

For the first time in Olympic history, all 204 participating nations will include female athletes after Saudi Arabia belatedly bowed to pressure and added two women to its team for the London Games.

Sarah Attar, pictured, a 17-year-old middle-distance runner based in the US, and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, a judoka, were named after months of negotiation between the Saudi authorities and the International Olympic Committee.

The Saudis join Qatar and Brunei in fielding women at the Games for the first time.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said: "It can count as a symbol. 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."

Attar said: "I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved." Human rights organisations welcomed the move. "It's an important precedent that will create space for women to get rights and it will be hard for Saudi hard-liners to roll back," said Minky Worden of the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

The London Games is likely to see the highest number of female participants in Olympic history.

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