For the first time in the history of the Olympic Games, every country competing will include female athletes, after Saudi Arabia agreed Thursday to send two women to compete in judo and track and field.
DetroitNews.com is reporting that the ultraconservative kingdom to field men only teams came after similar decisions by Qatar and Brunei.
“With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow female competitors from Qatar and Brunei, it means that by London 2012 every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic Games,” IOC President Jacques Rogge said.
The countries have been under pressure from the international Olympic Committee and human-rights groups to include female athletes. The announcement came after months of IOC negotiations with the Saudis.
The Saudi female athletes are Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani who will compete in judo, and Sarah Attar who will run in the 800-meter competition.
“A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going,” the 17-year-old Attar said in an IOC statement from her U.S. training base in San Diego. “It’s such a huge honor, and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport.”
Saudi Arabia will also include female officials in their Olympic delegation for the first time ever.
The 1996 Atlanta Olympics 26 national teams had no women. The number dropped to 3 teams in Beijing four years ago, and now every country participating in the Olympics will have women to represent them.