Saudi Arabia has reversed its decision banning Saudi women from competing in the London Olympics. The Saudi Embassy in London announced that women will be allowed to participate in the Olympics for the first time.
Gulf News reported the Saudi Embassy in London released this statement: Saudi Arabia “wishes to reaffirm its support for the sublime meanings reflected by Olympic Games. It also supports the objectives of the Olympic movement to hold the games in an atmosphere of the fair competition without the burdens of politics or racism.
Therefore, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia is looking forward to its complete participation in the London 2012 Olympic Games through the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, which will oversee the participation of women athletes who can qualify for the Games.”
Earlier this year Digital Journal reported that the Kingdom reneged on an agreement to allow women to participate "barely before the ink had time to dry on the paperwork."
There is speculation that the latest reversal has been influenced by the death of Crown Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz Al Saud earlier this month. Middle East online reported the prince, who was a hardliner, was opposed to women participating in global sporting events. The Kingdom's hard-line clerics consider "that female sports constitute 'steps of the devil' that will encourage immorality and reduce women's chances of meeting the requirements for marriage."
Even with the permission of the Saudi government it is not clear if any Saudi women will actually participate in the 2012 Olympics. Show-jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas was expected to be Saudi's first female Olympic competitor. However, the Guardian reports she will not be coming to London due to an injury sustained by her horse. Her mother said "Unfortunately her horse got injured, and there is no chance of her getting to the Olympics this time. You have to have the combination. It would be like a Formula One driver going to the track without their car."