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The International Olympic Committee breathed a sigh of relief overnight with confirmation that Saudi Arabia will indeed be including women in its team for the first time. In fact, three countries will be making history by becoming the last to name women in their lineups.
The 2012 Olympic Games in London will feature a first: all nations will field female athletes.
The International Olympic Committee, or IOC, noted the new additions: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei.
Jacques Rogge, IOC President, said, "This is a very important decision because it is a very symbolic one - these are the first women of these countries to participate in the games, and they will be seen in the home countries as role models. More will follow of course."
The athletes also believe they will inspire others. Sarah Attar will represent Saudi Arabia in the 800-meter track-and-field race. She’s one of two Saudi women who will compete in London.
Sarah Attar, Saudi Olympian, said, "I definitely think that my participation in this Olympic Games can increase women’s participation in sports in general-I can only hope for the best for them and that we can get some good strides going for women in the Olympics and just in sports in general."
The IOC worked with closely with Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei to ensure that Attar and other female qualifiers could compete this year.
Nada Arakji will swim for Qatar. While many athletes want gold, for her, just competing marks a dream come true.
Nada Arkji, Qatari Olympian, said, "Everything happened so fast, it is like a dream. When I was younger I always said to myself, "Oh I wish I could be in the Olympics," and look at me now-I am very happy."
Arakji’s participation marks a major victory for gender equality and for the IOC-long an engine for change. The IOC works to educate women coaches, trainers, and athletes, and lobbies countries to increase the number of female athletes they send to the games. In the 1908 summer Olympics, only 1.8% of athletes were women. One hundred years later, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, 42 percent were women.
Sarah Attar, Saudi Olympian, said, "To any woman who wants to participate, I say go for it and don’t let anyone hold you back."
The IOC President said that within 20 years, he expects there to be full gender equality at the Olympic Games. For now at least, female athletes have a chance at the Olympics, no matter their nationality.