Skip to main content

Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia Make Olympic History for Women

Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia sent female athletes to the Olympics for the first time this year, guaranteeing the 2012 London games a place in history as the first Olympics in which every participating country has sent women, Jillian C. York reports.
Qatar's national swimmer Nada Arkaji attends a training session in Doha March 29, 2012. Arkaji hopes to be a trailblazer for Qatar's forgotten sportswomen at the London Olympics this year even though the teenager's medal prospects are almost non-existent. The 17-year-old and sprinter Noor al-Malki will be the first women from Qatar to compete at an Olympics after the IOC handed out wildcards to the desert nation to send two female athletes to this year's Games. Picture taken March 29, 2012. To match Intervi

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.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.