The London Games will go down in history for being the first to which every participating country has sent women. Though three countries — Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — are sending female athletes to the Olympics for the first time this year, it's Saudi Arabia that has made headlines; while Qatar and Brunei did not actively prevent women from prior participation, Saudi Arabia has put up barriers at every step, holding out until the International Olympic Committee threatened the country with a ban. Now, the Gulf nation has sent two women: US-born runner Sarah Attar and judo competitor Wojdan Shahrkhani.
Women were first allowed participation in the 1900 Summer Olympics: That year, just six countries — France, Great Britain, Italy, the United States, Switzerland and Bohemia — sent female competitors. Over the course of the next 36 years, most of the 24 countries that were present at the 1900 Games had sent women to compete; the longest holdout was Cuba, which didn't send women until 1956. Even fewer than twenty years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Games, 26 countries didn’t send women.