International Olympic Committee rules require that countries allow both men and women to compete as a prerequisite for their participation in the Olympic Games. Saudia Arabia, a country that has never sent a female athlete to the games, has been warned of this, promised to correct the situation, and then sort of did nothing for awhile and hoped that no one would notice.
Now, one human rights group says enough is enough and is encouraging the IOC to bar the Middle Eastern Kingdom from the Games, on account of the fact that they're clearly dragging their feet on this. In a letter to the IOC on Wednesday, the organization demanded Saudi Arabia be barred from the upcoming London Olympic Games if they fail to send a lady to compete.
For awhile, it looked as though Saudi Arabia would actually comply with the IOC's warning. Equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas competed for the kingdom in the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, where she took home a bronze medal. Some analysts believed that she had the best chance to qualify for the Olympics, but now, it seems that the country's all-male equestrian team is deep into training in Europe— without her.
Further, Olympic rules have bent over backward to allow countries with fewer highly trained athletes to send participants to the games by offering universality slots in many track and field and swimming events. The slots are reserved for countries that can't produce any athletes that meet the qualifying standards. Saudi Arabia has not opted to fill any of those slots with female athletes.
A spokesperson from the IOC rejected the call for a Saudi ban, saying that the Games don't issue ultimatums or deadlines to countries who wish to participate, that Malhas's participation in the Youth Olympic Games was a positive sign that Saudi Arabia was serious about including ladies.
But Human Rights Watch isn't not so sure this is the case. Girls and boys are strictly segregated in the country, and all girls schools do not offer any sort of physical education, exercise, or sports teams. For a Saudi woman to have any hope of training, she'd have to do it in another country. Saudi Arabia was never serious about including women in sport, and may never be.
This is sort of like when your roommate or much-neater-than-you fiancee tells you to do the dishes and you say you'll do them even though you don't want to and are in the middle of watching a very important episode of Spaced on Netflix, and then ten minutes later the person who wants you to chip in comes back and you're still eating ice cream and laughing at Simon Pegg. In this analogy, you are Saudi Arabia and your exasperated cohabitator is Human Rights Watch.