Saudis won't send female athletes to London games
Saudi Arabia will not officially send female athletes in the 2012 London Games but won't stand in the way when women living abroad want to to participate, a senior official has said.
"We are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at present in the London Olympics or in other international championships," Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, the head of the governmental General Presidency of Youth Welfare, told a press conference this week.
"There are hundreds, if not thousands, of (Saudi) women who practise sports, but in private," he added.
Bin Faisal, a member of the International Olympic Committee, however, left it open for Saudi women staying or studying abroad to compete in the event on their own, without having them in the official delegation.
"We will only offer help to ensure that their participation will be within an appropriate framework conforming to the Islamic Sharia law," he added.
Equestrienne Dalma Malhas could compete in the show jumping events in London after already featuring at the 2010 Youth Olympics where she won a bronze medal. Malhas was invited to the Singapore event by the International Olympic Committee.
The IOC executive board is expected to have the issue on its agenda at the next meetings in May.
The oil-rich kingdom remains the only predominantly Muslim country that has yet to allow women the right to drive.
Saudi women cannot travel unless they are accompanied by a male guardian or are over 45 years old.
King Abdullah bin Abdel Aziz, seen as a political and social reformer, has promised to bring change to the conservative country.
In September, he said women would be appointed as members of the advisory parliament, and be allowed to run for and vote in municipal elections.Author: Ramadan Al-Fatash