Every Olympic nation will field women as Saudi Arabia caves in

Martial artist and 800m runner will become first females to represent their country

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

Sarah Attar, 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.

With London organisers dogged by last minute problems, it is a timely fillip for the IOC, and its president Jacques Rogge in particular. The Belgian has pushed the issue as a key part of the last Games of his 12-year tenure.

As recently as April senior Saudi figures were insisting they would "not endorse" female participation despite gender equality being enshrined in the IOC's charter. Discussions between the IOC and the Saudis finally reached a conclusion at the start of this week when the Saudis agreed to select the two women nominated by the governing body. If a country refuses to select women it can ultimately be excluded from the Games.

Rogge said: "We are very pleased. 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."

The IOC will continue to provide scholarships to young female Saudi athletes in the hope of raising standards and sporting opportunities, which remain severely limited in the country. Rogge added: "We have discussed with Saudis on how they could continue to improve the situation."

Attar, who is training in San Diego ahead of the Games, said: "It's such a huge honour and 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 with an increase expected on the 42 per cent in Beijing four years ago. As recently as the 1996 Games in Atlanta, 26 countries did not include women. In Beijing that number had been cut to three. Britain has selected its largest number of women with 48 per cent of the team being female. In another first, boxing will include female competitors, making this the first Games in which men and women contest all sports.

Brunei has entered a single athlete, while Qatar will send five women, including Bahiya Al-Hamad, a shooter who will also be carrying the country's flag at the opening ceremony.

Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas