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London Olympics: Saudi Arabia searching for women athletes

IOC 'confident of a positive outcome' for only nation without female Olympians.
Dalma rushdi malhas saudi olympicsEnlarge
Saudi Dalma Rushdi Malhas rides Flash Top Hat at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore on August 22, 2010. (ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi Arabia’s pledge to send women to the London 2012 Olympics might fail because the country has little prospects of finding athletes who meet international standards.

According to a Saudi newspaper, what slim prospects the nation had of qualifying women are gone and Saudi Arabia will only send men.

“We are still trying to find women to qualify,” an embassy official told the BBC today. “The problem is finding women to meet the minimum criteria. This matter is being negotiated now between the (International Olympic Committee) and the Saudi Olympic committee.”

Saudi Arabia has never sent women to an Olympic Games; it will send men to compete in equestrian, weightlifting and track events, The Telegraph reported.

Dalma Rushdi Malhas was the nation’s best chance to qualify in show jumping, but she failed to reach Olympic standards.

More from GlobalPost: Female Saudi showjumper not competing at London Olympics after all

The International Olympic Committee and Saudi officials are discussing plans to send women regardless of the qualification.

The IOC often allows smaller nations to compete, such as swimmer Eric “The Eel” Moussambani Malonga from Equatorial Guinea in 2000, to foster the Olympic movement.

Olympic officials said they’re sure they can reach an agreement to allow Saudi women to compete.

“We are still talking to the Saudi (national Olympic committee) and remain confident of a positive outcome,” an IOC statement said, according to The Associated Press.

Human Rights Watch said it’s not surprised Saudi Arabia can’t find women Olympians, director Minky Worden told the AP.

“It’s not that the Saudis couldn’t find a woman athlete, it’s that their discriminatory policies have so far prevented one from emerging,” Worden said.

Saudi Arabia will likely be the only nation with a male-only team in London.

Four years ago in Beijing, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei only sent men; however, Qatar and Brunei have pledged to send women this year.

More from GlobalPost: London Olympics 2012: Saudi Arabian women allowed to compete for first time

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/world-at-play/london-olympics-saudi-arabia-searching-women-athletes