Dubai: The rules set by the Saudi Arabia for sportswomen hoping to participate in the Olympics for the first time is meant to satisfy the religious institution in the kingdom, a prominent Saudi woman columnist said on Tuesday.
“I believe the conditions were put in order to avoid provoking the religious institution what was originally against women’s participation in Olympics,” said Saudi columnist Hala Al Dosari.
“Some of the rules, such as they should be accompanied by a male guardian and not to mix with men could be difficult in some sports,” All contestants must dress modestly andbe accompanied by a male guardian,” she added to Gulf News.
Saudi sportswomen, who were allowed to participate in this month’s Olympics in London, were asked to adhere to certain rules if they want to be eligible to take part.
They will only participate if they do so “wearing suitable clothing that complies with Sharia” (Islamic law) and “the athlete’s guardian agrees and attends with her,” Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal was quoted as saying in statements published by Al Jazirah newspaper.
“There must also be no mixing with men during the Games,” added the Saudi sport chief to the Arabic-language newspaper.
“The athlete and her guardian must pledge not to break these conditions,” he added.
Some women activists noted that among the reasons behind the rejection of the religious institution to women sportswomen is because of concern that they will remove their Hijabs, or head covers, and the issue of mixing with men.
However, they question the possibility of not allowing women to mix with men in some sport places, where there is large number of audience and media people.
They also noted that many women from other countries, also play sports wearing Hijabs.
“All the sports that Saudi women hopes to participate in has suitable clothing,” said Hala, in reference to decent covering clothing.
Last week, Saudi women were given the green light to participate in the Olympics. The announcement was made in a short statement issued by the Saudi embassy in London.
“Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee will oversee the participation of women athletes who can qualify for the Games,” said the statement.
The decision was welcomed by Saudi women activists, who expressed their hope that it will be followed by other moves, including encouraging women sports inside the Kingdom.
According to some Saudi women activists and sports analysts the Saudi women show jumper Alia Howaiti is a potential participant.
Previously, all eyes were directed at the 20-year-old equestrian rider Dalma Malhas, who was looked at as a qualified Saudi woman who could win another medal to her country.
However, these hopes were dashed after her horse was injured.
“The only thing I can say now is that I am faithful in God’s will,” said Dalma’s mother, Arwa Al Mutabagani, who is member of the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation.
“And Dalma’s opinion is the same. That’s sport, if you have only one horse at Olympic standards,” added the mother in a statement to Gulf News.
Dalma won the bronze medal in show jumping in the games two years ago in Singapore. Her participation then was not through nomination by her country, but rather her personal initiative.