Saudi rules out sending female athletes to London Olympics

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

The Saudi Olympic Committee chief has denied the Kingdom is sending women athletes to London Olympics this summer, local newspapers reported on Thursday.

“We are not endorsing any Saudi female participation at the moment in the Olympics or other international championships,” Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, Saudi Olympic Committee chairman said during a press conference in Jeddah. He also assured that Saudi women taking part on their own are free to do so and that the Kingdom’s Olympic authority would “only help in ensuring that their participation does not violate the Islamic sharia law.”

The Saudi official insisted his position is the same announced late last year in which he reiterated that Saudi Arabia will be fielding male athletes only.

“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of (Saudi) women who practice sports, but in private,” he said, adding that the sports body has nothing to do with their activities.

Recent media reports suggested Equestrian jumping contestant Dalma Malhas, 18, will become the first Saudi female athlete to compete at this summer’s Olympics.

Malhas won a bronze medal at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics without having been nominated by her country, following an invitation from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Anita DeFrantz, president of the IOC’s Women and Sport Committee, criticised Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, the last three countries to have never sent female athletes to the Olympics in July last year.

Qatar, a bidder of the 2020 Olympics, has already announced it send female competitors to London.

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