Saudi Arabian radio sports commentator Reema Abdullah was chosen to be among the 8,000 people who will carry the Olympic torch at the 2012 London Games this summer, Arabian Business reported. Abdullah indicated that she was notified by the organizers of her role when a street-by-street map of the 8,000-mile route for the Olympic torch was presented.
The announcement comes at a time when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has expressed optimism that Saudi Arabia might agree to send female athletes to the Olympics for the first time at forthcoming games. â€œThis move will be seen as a major towards fulfilling the Olympic bodyâ€™s dream of having women represented by all participating contingents,â€ Jacques Rogge, IOC President told The Associated Press on March 13. â€œThe International Olympic Committee was in advanced talks with the Saudi Olympic body to include female competitors,â€ he added.
Sports analysts believe that the kingdom still lacks women who match Olympic qualifying standards. Nonetheless, the IOC said that the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee had submitted a list of potential female competitors. Qatar, on the other hand, is also expected to send at least two women, a swimmer and sprinter, to the London Games according to Arabian Gazette. Saudi Arabia, in addition to Qatar and Brunei, had no female athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Abdullah, who is also a soccer fan and an amateur player, is leading a campaign in Saudi Arabia to allow women to play sports and compete internationally. Quality physical education including football, racing and cricket are not considered to be core subjects taught in schools. Sports have long been reserved for men only. Female participation in these games has long been a controversial issue in the Kingdom. Let us hope that this is a harbinger of change.