28 May 2012
The IOC President Jacques Rogge remains hopeful that Saudi women will be allowed to compete for the first time at the London Games. Saudi Arabia now stands alone in its refusal to select women. Talks aimed at resolving the situation are continuing but time is running out.
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Negotiations between the International Olympic Committee and Saudi Arabia have been long and tricky. Jacques Rogge and other senior members of the IOC are desperate for the oil-rich kingdom to send an all-gender team to the London Games. So much so they are prepared to waive the normal qualification criteria. But in Saudi it's a sensitive issue. Ultra-conservative forces in the government have been against the idea because women playing sport in public violates Islamic Sharia law. Last month the head of the country's Olympic Committee refused to endorse female participation, although he said they might be allowed to compete under a neutral flag. Jacques Rogge said that was not an option.
Other nations like Qatar and Brunei have for the first time selected women in their Olympic teams. Noora Al Mennai who was part of Doha's 2020 Olympic bid delegation has urged Saudi Arabia to follow suit.
By discriminating against women Saudi Arabia has broken the IOC's charter. Potential sanctions include expulsion from the Olympic movement - a last resort but perhaps not inconceivable.
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- to waive
to overlook or to ignore
group of people who represent their country or organisation
- to follow suit
to copy them
forced removal or ban
impossible to imagine