Women allowed to join Saudi Olympic team


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The Independent Online

Women athletes will be allowed to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics for the first time in the kingdom's history. The decision follows intense international criticism over Saudi Arabia's previous refusal to allow its women to take part in the Games, which start in London next month.

A statement issued by the Saudi Embassy in London yesterday said that the Saudi Olympic Committee would "oversee participation of women athletes who can qualify". In reality, there is only one Saudi woman who competes at Olympic standard, the showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, 20.

Officials said that others may be able to take part, however, and would be "dressed to preserve their dignity". This would mean loose-fitting garments and a scarf to cover hair but not the face.

With Brunei and Qatar also sending women athletes, it means every nation participating at the games will have women competitors. Human rights groups had called for an Olympic ban on Saudi Arabia.