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Women to race in Riyadh marathon next year

The kingdom has in recent months eased restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban

Gulf News

Manama: In a new drive to empower Saudi women through sports, women will be allowed to take part in the Riyadh international marathon next year.

Hadi Al Qahtani, the head of the Saudi track association, said that their participation would be officially endorsed within two months, Saudi daily Okaz reported on Sunday.

Women have made impressive strides in recent months in Saudi Arabia as the society is undergoing intensive changes that saw them organise tournaments and attend sporting events in major stadiums.

The kingdom has in recent months eased restrictions on women, including the lifting of a driving ban - set to go into effect in June.

In September, hundreds of women were allowed to enter a sports stadium in Riyadh, used mostly for football matches, for the first time to mark Saudi Arabia’s national day.

Later in January, sports matches were officially opened up to women spectators.

Now, officials are encouraging women to participate in fitness and sports activities.

The easing of social controls comes as Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman looks to repackage the nation as more moderate and welcoming.

The crown prince’s Vision 2030 programme for a post-oil era stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom reels from an energy slump.

As a part of the crown prince’s reforms drive, Saudi Arabia announced in December it was lifting a decades-ban on cinemas with the first movie theatres expected to open in March.

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