Thursday, July 19, 2012

Arab Spring continues as Saudi Arabia sends first female athletes to the Olympics

Let's keep the humor going. Saudi Arabian athletes Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani and Sarah Attar will be the first ever women in the history of this ancient country (OK, 1932 isn't all that ancient.) to compete in the summer Olympics. Wodjan will compete in judo and Sarah in the 800 meter run.

Of course neither of them is from Saudi Arabia, and the nation does not have Olympic qualifying trials for women. Sarah Attar was born and raised in California and is a sophomore at Pepperdine. I'm not sure where Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani is from, but I did read she was not raised in Saudi Arabia. So, although you will see plenty of headlines proclaiming that Saudi Arabia is 'sending' two female athletes, that's not quite true. It's more like two women with Saudi citizenship will compete under the Saudi flag. And that required a lot of work (and rule breaking) on the part of the Olympic Committee.

Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani remains a mystery guest to me. Sarah Attar ran track and cross country in high school but is not on the Pepperdine team. She is working out, however. Her fastest time for the 800 is 2:30. The qualifying time for A and B countries respectively is 1:59 and 2:00.
All the women who participate in the Olympics must wear “suitable clothing that complies with Sharia [Islamic Law], be accompanied by a male guardian at all times and may not mix with men during the Games." said Saudi Olympic committee chairman and sports minister Prince Nawaf bin Faisal.
Sarah obviously believes her Olympic moment will be worth it.


Big Myk said...

I don't know why you have to be so cynical about this. For the Saudis to even make this petty acknowledgment of women as real people is a a tremendous step forward. Years from now, people may remember the summer olympics of 2012 as the beginning of the end of Saudi patriarchy.

James R said...

I prefer comedy rather cynicism, but I should think that a tremendous step forward would actual benefit at least one person living in the country.