Saudi Arabia Won’t Back Female Olympics Athletes, Al-Riyadh Says

Saudi Arabia’s Olympic authority won’t endorse Saudi female participation in the London Games, Al-Riyadh newspaper reported today, citing Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, head of the General Presidency of Youth Welfare.

Saudi women are free to participate on their own and the presidency’s role will be limited to ensuring that their participation conforms with Islamic Sharia law, Prince Nawaf said, according to the newspaper.

“As far as the International Olympic Committee is concerned, it’s the National Olympic Committees that send the athletes,” an IOC spokeswoman said in an interview today. The “primary objective,” of an NOC is to put a delegation together and send them to the Games, she added.

Discussions between the Lausanne, Switzerland IOC and the Saudi Olympic authority about whether the kingdom will send women to the Olympics for the first time “are still going on,” the spokeswoman said. “It is not a no.”

The London Olympics start July 27.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei were the only nations not to send women athletes to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Qatar and Brunei are both expected to send female athletes this time round.

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