Calls to ban the Kingdom from the London Olympics because it is not sending any women to them are a straightforward case of Saudi-bashing— nothing more.
The calls follow a statement by Prince Nawaf Bin Faisal, head of the Saudi Olympic Committee, that it was “not endorsing any female participation at the moment” in the London games.
The UK-based Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation wants the International Olympic Committee to exclude the Kingdom on the basis that its “current refusal to send sportswomen to the Olympics puts them directly at odds with one of the IOC’s fundamental principles as laid out within the Olympic Charter”.
The whole issue has been hijacked by those whose views are driven by political correctness. Reality does not seem to enter their thoughts.
Saudi Arabia is not refusing to send women because of their gender. Indeed, it is not “refusing” to send them at all. On the contrary, there were hopes that the Kingdom would be able to send some women. It is not able to do so for a very practical reason. The reality is there are virtually no Saudi sportswomen up to Olympic standards. As such they are not qualified to participate. Even Saudi sportswomen admit that. The women’s basketball team simply is not up to standard. There is one potential female equestrian — literally just one — Dalma Rushdi Malhas. But it is not known if she wants to compete or is able to do so. She is certainly not being banned.
But that is it. There are no others.
Reality is the reason why women are not being sent. It is not a political stand against women. If it were, then the Olympic committee would be in its rights to ban Saudi Arabia from the games.
It is, however, perfectly true that the Kingdom did not do enough in the past to encourage women in sports. It is also perfectly true that there is still a view in the country, and a strongly held view at that in certain quarters, that women should not publicly take part in sports events. But that is not the official view, nor is it our view.
The authorities want women to participate and excel in sports. Physical education is being introduced in girls’ schools. There is, moreover, a strong current in favor of the development of women’s sports; women’s health clubs are mushrooming across the country. But the Saudi Olympic Committee does not have a magic wand. It cannot wish top quality sportswomen into being in time for the London games.
Things should be dramatically different in four year’s time at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
But it is ridiculous, and frankly malevolent, wanting to punish Saudi Arabia now for something that is beyond its control.
If this were purely a matter about discrimination, Saudi Arabia could easily send women to the London Olympics. But if it did they would be banned by the Olympic committee once they arrived for not being up to scratch. It would be humiliating for them and demonstrate contempt for the Olympic movement. In short, a complete farce.