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Saudis Allowing Women to Compete in Olympics

Women will wear 'sport hijabs' covering hair, but not face
By Mary Papenfuss,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 25, 2012 12:13 AM CDT
Updated Jun 25, 2012 12:27 AM CDT
Saudis Allowing Women to Compete in Olympics
Dalma Rushdi Malhas adjusts her helmet at the Youth Olympic Games 2010 in Singapore. She'll now likely compete in the London Olympics.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Whoah. Saudi Arabia has decided to allow female athletes to compete in the Olympics for the first time in history. The move ends speculation that the country might have faced banishment from the London Olympics for gender discrimination. The only female competitor currently up to Olympic standards is show jumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, said officials. But others may end up competing, and all will be dressed to "preserve their dignity," they added. That likely means modest, loose-fitting clothing and a "sports hijab" covering competitors' hair, but not their face, reports the BBC. It's huge step for the nation, where the move is fiercely opposed by many religious groups.

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King Abdullah has been pressing for participation of women, despite the opposition. Human Rights Watch last year urged the Olympics Committee to ban the nation from the London games because of its refusal to allow women to compete. Malhas won a bronze medal in 2010 in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where her presence marked the first time a Saudi female was allowed to participate in the youth competition. (Read more Dalma Rushdi Malhas stories.)

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