IOC hopes Saudi female athletes’ participation in 2012 Olympics

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A group of Saudi female athletes train at an unknown facility.

IOC President Jacques Rogge expressed his optimism that Saudi Arabia will send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time at this summer’s London Games. He said the move will be seen as a major towards fulfilling the Olympic body’s dream of having women represented by all participating contingents.

“The International Olympic Committee was in advanced talks with the Saudi olympic body to include female competitors,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday.

He did not give any details on the number of athletes and what disciplines they would be participating in.

“We are still discussing with them on the practicalities, but we are optimistic that this is going to happen,” Rogge said. “It depends on the possibilities of qualifications, standards of different athletes. We’re still discussing the various options.”

Sports analysts believe the Arab kingdom lacks women who match Olympic qualifying standards. As a result, the IOC and international sports federations would have to extend special invitations and discounts.

A decision should be finalized in a month to six weeks, Rogge said.

Saudi Arabia was one of three countries without any female athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The others, Qatar and Brunei, also have never sent women to compete at the games.

Qatar announced last month that it will use IOC wild card invitations to send at least two women — a swimmer and sprinter — to the London Games. Two others could also be added to the list.

Brunei is also expected to include women this time, according to the IOC.

If the talks with Saudi Arabia prove successful, all national Olympic committees in London will include women athletes for the first time in Olympic history, Rogge said.

About 204 national Olympic committees are expected to compete in London, representing 10,500 athletes.

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