SAUDI WOMEN ALLOWED TO COMPETE AT OLYMPICS IN FULL BURKA
June 24 2012
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – The Olympic Games are, in the big picture, nothing really much of anything. Sport is certainly entertaining and engaging but it does not truly matter in the bigger picture no matter what the most rabid of fans believe.
The Olympics, though, do something which localized sport only hints at; it brings people together.
All sports connect people. That is perhaps the greatest thing they do. While certainly bringing people together into small cadres does, on occasion, inspire hostility, it is also one of the few times when people are not constantly at one another’s throats, something that a world constantly in conflict can certainly used at times.
Now one more barrier has been broken, inspired by the spirit of international collaboration the Olympics brings. Saudi Arabia has made a concession which will allow female athletes to compete in the Games of London, though as one would expect, with serious restrictions such as having to wear full burkas, something will likely make any dreams of medals just that.
“It's very sensitive. King Abdullah is trying to initiate reform in a subtle way, by finding the right balance between going too fast or too slow,” a senior Saudi official told the BBC. “For example, he allowed the participation of women in the Shura council so the Olympic decision is part of an ongoing process, it's not isolated.”
It’s believed that the decision, likely only popular amongst women in the country, was inspired by the recent uprisings throughout the region and a desire to not look like backwards misogynists which could well spark a domestic rebellion.
Across the country women, who are rarely allowed to compete in sport, outnumber men.
“This is certainly a nice little story but I think will amount to very little. I mean it’s not like Saudi Arabia has a great reputation as a medal contender at the best of times but this is certainly not going to help their chances. There are a lot of things going against them including those heavy Burkas which will be a problem in the London heat, but also their complete and total lack of experience,” said Scrape TV Sports analyst Mark
Marvins. “Realistically they are not in any way prepared for something like this. The whole point of playing in the Olympics is to win medals, not defer to other people and allow them to win. Besides, the women will be competing against other women so they won’t even have a chance to do that.”
It’s not clear if any women have actually qualified for the Games as yet.
“I suppose that if they somehow worked it so that Saudi men and women competed against each other as the only contenders in events it would work out well for the country. Not the women specifically but at least they would be able to be proud of allowing men to win and that would be a kind of success for them,” continued Marvins. “I doubt that will happen though and for the most part the women will just end up not competing. It’s a nice gesture and all but there are standards and most Saudi women simply don’t live up to those standards. This is the Olympics, not Tee Ball.”
Tee Ball is not an official Olympic sport.
Alexi Orton, Sports Correspondent