Olympics chief: No guarantee Saudis will send women athletes to London

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 6 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

LONDON (AP) — IOC President Jacques Rogge cannot guarantee "100 percent" that female athletes from Saudi Arabia will compete at the London Olympics, although he remains optimistic the Gulf kingdom will send women to the games for the first time.

Rogge told The Associated Press that the International Olympic Committee is discussing the "operational details" with Saudi officials for ending their four-decade-old policy of sending only men to the games.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have never included women in their Olympic teams. While Qatar and Brunei have committed to sending female athletes to London, whether Saudi will do the same remains uncertain three weeks before the start of the London Games.

Saudi Olympic Committee president Prince Nawaf said in April that female participation had not been approved by the country's leaders and that Saudi-based women traveling to London would be contrary to the kingdom's traditions and norms.

But a statement released by the Saudi embassy in London last week said female athletes who qualify could be allowed to participate. Athletes in judo and in track and field are considered possibilities.

Saudi Arabia is a deeply traditional and ultra conservative Muslim society, and women are severely restricted in public life and are not even allowed to drive.

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