BERLIN (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee has met with the new Saudi Arabian Olympic chief to discuss women’s participation in the Games among other issues, amid the country’s failure to send any female athletes to the Asian Games.
IOC President Thomas Bach said new Saudi Olympic chief Prince Abdullah bin Musaed bin Abdulaziz had made his first visit to the IOC last week and among issues of “mutual interest” that were discussed was women’s participation, Bach said.
Saudi Arabia has failed to include a single female athlete in its 199-strong team for this month’s Asian Games in South Korea, saying its women are not sufficiently competitive.
“We are in constant contact with the Saudi Arabian National Olympic Committee,” Bach told Reuters this week. “You have seen that there has been a change in leadership and the new president paid his first visit to the IOC just last week.
“There, all the issues of mutual interest including women’s participation were discussed,” he said, without elaborating further.
The IOC is eager to have women athletes from all participating nations while also increasing the number of female competitors in an effort to have equal representation at the games. All sports must also have male and female competitions.
Last month, Saudi Arabia also failed to select a single female athlete for its team at the Youth Olympics in China, even though it had done so four years earlier when Dalma Rushi Malhas won an equestrian bronze medal.
Saudi authorities were widely applauded for including two women in their team for the 2012 London Olympics, a symbolic first for the Islamic kingdom.
But just over two years later, the oil-rich nation has opted not to pick any females for the 17th Asian Games, to be held in Incheon, South Korea, from Sept. 19 to Oct. 4.
“We will be having women in Rio de Janeiro on a good scale, but not at the Asian Games,” Mohammed al-Mishal, the secretary-general of Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee told Reuters.
Mishal said Prince Abdullah, who was appointed Saudi Arabia’s General President of Youth Welfare this year, had discussed his country’s plans with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“He doesn’t like seeing them (female Saudi athletes) being always the last (place). He wants to do it right and he already communicated this to Bach,” said Mishal.
Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar