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London Olympics board member outraged over Saudi discrimination against women athletes

London , Sun, 26 Feb 2012 ANI

London, Feb 26 (ANI): Tessa Jowell, a member of London Olympics Board has expressed anger over reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia discriminated against women in sports and physical education.


Jowell, who was the former culture secretary and Olympics minister, said the Saudis were "clearly breaking the spirit of the Olympic Charter's pledge to equality" with their attitude to women in sport and the Games.


Jowell's remarks came after a report by Human Rights Watch that highlighted the way in which Saudi Arabian women and girls are denied the right to sport, The Guardian reports.


The report found that, despite pledges to open up more sporting opportunity to women, "the Saudi government continues to flagrantly deny women and girls their right to practice physical education in schools and to practise recreational and competitive sport more generally".


The report, based on telephone interviews with Saudi women, said that having introduced schooling for girls in the early 1960s, the country "never added physical education classes to the girls' curriculum".


"Opponents of sports for women and girls put forward the 'slippery slope' argument that, once women start to exercise, they will shed modest clothing, spend 'unnecessary' time out of the house and have increased possibilities for mingling with men," the report said.


"Others propose endless conditions for women and girls practising sport (for example that they must wear modest clothing and engage in sports away from the prying eyes of men)," it added.


According to the paper, Jowell called on Saudi Arabia to demonstrate a commitment to change, noting that Afghanistan was banned from the 2000 Sydney Olympics over its attitude to women under Taliban rule.


"The London Games would be the perfect opportunity for the Saudis to spell out a way forward," the paper quoted her, as saying.


"I would like to see them set out a clear plan for equal inclusion of women in time for the 2016 games in Rio de Janiero. This has to be a substantive commitment," she added. (ANI)


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