Saudi Arabia/London: Saudi’s Female Olympians?

As one follows media reports on whether Saudi Arabia will send women to the 2012 Summer Games in London, the reports are starting to look more encouraging.  To begin with, female sports commentator and amateur soccer coach, Reema Abdullah, will be one of the 8000 individuals who will carry the Olympic torch.  That’s a start but the world is looking for female athletes who will represent Saudi Arabia in competition for the gold, bronze and silver medals.

Dalma Rushdi Malhas (Hisham) may make history if she is selected to represent Saudi Arabia in the 2012 London Olympics.  She first came to light in the Olympic spotlight when she rode at the inaugural Youth Olympic games in 2010.   At that time she was 18 years old and had won a bronze medal while competing in Singapore.

Malhas credits her mother as her inspirational figure in her sporting career.  Malhas is not your typical Saudi woman.  She grew up in Italy and now lives most of the time in France.

Saudi Arabia qualified an equestrian jumping team for the 2012 games.  The Kingdom has the opportunity to send four riders as part of the team.  Will Malhas be among the four?

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) wants to see more than just “one token woman” representing Saudi Arabia.  Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an IOC official said that Saudi Arabia presented a list of four female candidates for consideration.  Because the women may not meet the international qualifying standards, the IOC may grant them Olympic entry based on “special circumstances.”

Having Saudi women participating in the Olympics is groundbreaking on a number of fronts.  Presently, the majority of Saudi schools do not have physical education programs for female students.  However, in order to become a future Olympian a Saudi woman must be physically fit.  The sooner she starts fitness programs the better chances she will have to become a Saudi Olympian in addition to incorporating a healthy lifestyle at a young age.

Opening up the Olympics to female Saudi athletes also opens up greater recognition to the Saudi woman.  She will be seen as an independent and strong woman.

There will certainly be continued resistance among Saudi’s conservatives and traditionalists of having women compete in the Olympics.  However, Crown Prince Nayef and others in the highest levels of the Royal family have spoken in favor of the women competing.  Therefore, any protests will likely be nipped in the bud and instead a new era of opportunities is opening for the Saudi woman.


16 Responses

  1. I think that Saudi athletes should be banned from ALL international competitions until Saudi women are allowed to FULLY participate, and not just with tokenism.

  2. Fingers, toes and all other body parts crossed for a positive outcome.

  3. sAUDI SHOULD SEND IT’S WOMEN — if they qualify.

    saudi women are capable of doing just about anything any other woman can do .
    Although a great step, i don’t feel they should be granted special circumstances, i’d rather not have the olympic name marred.
    Give the saudi girls the right oppurtunities at a young age and they will do wonders.

  4. Re: Saudi Arabia agrees to allow female athletes to participate in Olympics. WTF! BFD!

    However Nayef’s statement has a very significant provisio: provided participation “meets the standards of decency and women do not contradict Islamic law”.

    Saudis had to agree in principle, or risk being shut out of the Olympics. But this can still find many ways of not happening.

    There are only a few months before the London Olympics, and since Saudi Arabia has never had the intention of fielding female athletes, they have not actively trained female athletes for international competition. Above all, at any moment, Sharia and accompanying standards of gender segregation, “modesty,” and so forth may be invoked by the Grand Mufti and his cohorts to squash the whole deal, or at least make matters as difficult as possible.

    As AB pointed out, the whole deal centers around a female Saudi equestrian (jumping): Dalma Rushdi Malhas. She won a bronze medal in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics. At the time, she was not officially delegated to compete in Singapore on behalf of the kingdom.

    She also is not allowed to train in Saudi, so she is based in Australia. She wasn’t allowed on the Saudi equestrian team (all male riders) and will compete independently. Why horseback-riding? Because all participants have to wear a hard-top helmet (in screwed islamspeak “cover their hair”) and usually wear riding gloves (islamspeak “cover their hands”).

    Here is some background:

  5. I voted yes but NOT if the IOC are going to make special allowances for her and not if the IOC just thinks it’s time there was KSA representation. They should get representation if and when a woman can particpate full on and equal. BTW, how the heck is a Saudi women allowed to ride a horse? Of course she must already be married??? Banning based on discrimination is wrong and if discrimination was a reason for banning a country from the Olympics there would be very few competitors.

  6. I think if by granting special circumstances, they are allowed to compete, then why not? I am all for countries being represented in the Olympics- even if it means a great discrepancy in the quality of the athletes because I believe every country has the right to have its men and women represented. That’s what the Olympics are all about, right?

  7. The Saudi women may need to be granted a special permission in order to have their presence at the Olympics this year. I do not have an objection to that since it will set the precedence of Saudi women at the Olympics and help pave the way for other women -to qualify- and participate.

    I forget who made the comment but it is true that not all families would support a daughter participating in equestrian sports. However remember that the Saudi woman who won the bronze in the Youth Olympics does not come from a traditional background.

  8. I don’t understand what special circumstances mean? she really can be anyone off the street never having gone up on a horse aslong as she is the best one available to represent saudi arabia.

    she won’t place int he qualifiers but hey she’s top of saudi so she gets to do, i’m ok with that, but if the olympic comitee sets some standards for basic athletes completancy adn she doesn’t make the cut then why bother sending her, just send a in-name only flag bearer lady = a delegation to opbserve to represent saudi adn say none of our women are qualified , i’m sure they can find plenty of princess ready to take a trip.

  9. I absolutely agree. There should be no special circumstances and not even when it comes to dress for that matter. It is not important for KSA to be represented if they are not represented in the same way every other country is. It would make a mockery of the whole thing for KSA and everybody else IMHO.

  10. I hope she gets in, good for her! But I agree, no special allowances or dress. But considering the photo I don’t think that will be an issue.
    She is riding an overo, interesting…

  11. Maybe they can come up with a special Olympian status like observer athlete, or opportunity athlete or something like this. I too feel that the term Olympian must be preserved to mean “best in class.”

    In fact, my husband and I often joke that if we want to, we can probably represent KSA in figure skating since we can go around the rink and could probably get the government to nominate us.

  12. Go for it, NN! (smile)

  13. LOL!!!

  14. Do you remember ”Eddie the Eagle”?
    He inspired the ”Eddie the Eagle rule” After Eddie all Olympic hopefuls have to compete in international events and place in the top 30 percent or the top 50 competitors, whichever is fewer.

  15. Lets hope so!

  16. […] I find this abrupt turnaround of view to be extremely disappointing.  For once, I was not “cautiously optimistic” but actually feeling confident that Saudi Arabia would have some official female Olympians. […]

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