London 2012 Olympics: Saudis deny no women will compete

Saudi women walk outside a shopping mall (File) There is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport in Saudi Arabia

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A Saudi official has denied media reports that no women from his country will compete at the London Olympics.

But the London embassy official told the BBC that finding sportswomen of sufficient calibre was proving a problem.

It comes after the Saudi authorities lifted a ban on women from the Gulf kingdom competing in the Olympics.

The public participation of women in sport is still fiercely opposed by many Saudi religious conservatives.

There is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport in the country.

Saudi officials say that a "shooter" and "a runner called Alia" are under consideration for London 2012.

They had earlier said that a horsewoman, Dima Malhas, was expected to qualify, but this turned out not to be the case.

"We are still trying to find women to qualify," said the embassy official.

"The problem is finding women to meet the minimum criteria. This matter is being negotiated now between the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and the Saudi Olympic Committee."

The BBC's Frank Gardner says the decision to lift the ban on Saudi women competing in the Olympics has come so late in the day for London 2012 that the Saudis are now desperately trying to find a solution.

Women's sport is in its infancy in Saudi Arabia and there is only a very small pool to select from, he adds.

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