So, did you hear the big news that Saudi Arabia is finally sending women to to the Olympics? If you live in Saudi Arabia, there's a good chance you didn't. The Associated Press, which was one of a gajillion international media outlets to follow the story of Saudi Arabia's step into the modern world of coed Olympic teams, brings us the news on Friday that none of the nation's state media covered it. The story of this domestic news blackout is significant because it points out that, while Saudi Arabia is begrudgingly bending to international pressure to change its ultra-conservative ways, nothing much has changed inside the country. Per AP's Brian Murphy:
"It does not change the fact that Saudi women are not free to move and to choose," said political analyst Mona Abass in neighboring Bahrain. "The Saudis may use it to boost their image, but it changes little."
Even the two athletes selected to compete under the Saudi flag - 800-meter runner Sarah Attar from Pepperdine University in California and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo - live outside the kingdom and carry almost no influence as sports figures. There is no other choice: Women sports remain nearly an underground activity in Saudi Arabia.
Perhaps that will change if Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani wins a Judo medal or Sarah Attar wins one for the 800-meter sprint. Even if they don't win, we hope the cacophony of coverage of these two Olympic pioneers must eventually breaks through the Saudi state media's silence.
- Saudi Arabia