Manama: As the countdown to Day Zero when women are allowed to attend sporting events in stadiums in Saudi Arabia is in its final stages, Al Jawhara Stadium in the Red Sea city of Jeddah is fully ready for the breakthrough event.
Pictures of the facilities especially prepared to ease the presence of women in the hitherto male bastion have been circulating on social media and building up excitement among fans and supporters.
Facilities include prayer rooms, powerful air-conditioners and toilets. Even a smoking zone for women was prepared.
The first match to be watched live by women in Jeddah will be between Al Ahly, one of the two local teams, and Al Baten on January 12.
The fifth floor of the stadium, with a capacity of 10,000 seats, has been reserved for women to attend sporting events.
In a major breakthrough, Saudi Arabia last year announced that women would be allowed to attend sporting events in the kingdom’s three major stadiums starting January 1.
Princess Reema Bandar Bint Al Saud, the vice president for women’s affairs of the General Sports Authority, on her Twitter account expressed her delight with the decision.
“One thousand congratulations to all Saudi women,” she posted. “Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia to open their doors to welcome women in 2018.”
She added that preparations were underway to ensure the stadiums are ready for families by the beginning of the year.
Three stadiums in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, in the Eastern Province, were selected on the merit they could be made easily ready to accommodate women, Saudi officials said, pledging that women would be gradually allowed into the other stadiums across the kingdom.
In the King Fahad Stadium in Riyadh, women will have 7,000 seats and in the Prince Mohammad Bin Fahad Stadium in Dammam, they will have the West and East seats.
Women will enter the stadiums through separate gates and the process will be supervised by women.
Saudi Shura Council Member Dr Iqbal Darandari hailed the decision to allow women into sports as a highly significant event that will allow Saudi women to practice sports.
The Shura member said that the kingdom’s biggest clubs, such as Al Hilal and Al Nassr in Riyadh and Al Ettihad and Al Ahly in Jeddah, should dedicate some days for women to exercise and train. They should also form their own teams of women players and encourage them to hold competitions, she added.