Why Saudi athletes were allowed to participate in the Olympics

Saudi Arabia has competed at the Olympics since 1972. And all the while the team consisted only of male athletes. This situation is easy to explain. Saudi Arabia is one of the most orthodox Muslim countries. Women’s rights are severely limited in this state. She has no right to study, work, or travel without the permission of a male relative. She can’t get a license and drive. Even her appearance is strictly regulated. Every woman who has come out of childhood is required in public places to wear a hijab – a headscarf covering her hair and neck, and an abaya – a black, casual robe across the floor and with long sleeves. Most women also cover their face.

In such circumstances, the participation of a woman in any public sporting competition is impossible simply because of decorum and religious morality.

Nevertheless, the government of the Arab kingdom had to make concessions. The International Olympic Committee has threatened the country with disqualification from the Olympics for years for preventing women from qualifying events. And in 2012, these measures took effect. It was decided to allow Saudi female athletes before selection for the Olympics and at successful performance to include them in the team.

It should be borne in mind that women’s participation in the Olympiad has become part of the overall course of gradual democratization of Saudi society For example, already in 2015, it is planned to admit women candidates before taking part in local government elections. These concessions involve not only international pressure, but changes in conservative Saudi society. A growing number of Saudi Arabians, looking back at neighbouring countries such as the Arab Emirates, conclude that some independence of women does not lead to a deterioration of mores or a crisis in society.

Leave a Comment