It seems that Saudi Arabia has interest in hosting the Olympic games. However, they have no interest in hosting female athletes in their country. Therefore, the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee came up with the idea of simply segregating the games. The proposal suggests that men could compete in Saudi Arabia, while women could compete in neighboring Bahrain.
The Daily Mail reports that “cultural constraints” in Saudi Arabia would not allow for women to compete in the country. Athletic attire is not deemed appropriate for women in Saudi Arabia, and swimming events were considered of particular concern. Prince Fahad bin Jalawi Al Saud, an international relations consultant to the president of the Saudi committee, explained that Saudi Arabian society would have difficulty accepting female athletes into the country.
“It [Saudi Arabian society] has a hard time accepting that women can compete in sports, especially in swimming. Wearing sports clothing in public is not really allowed. For these cultural reasons, it is difficult to bid for certain big international events.”
Though Fahad said the country has no interest in allowing female Olympic athletes to participate, they would be very interested in hosting a male-only event. Fahad said this could easily be accomplished by segregating the games and coming to a compromise with a neighboring country such as Bahrain, which could host the women separately.
The Telegraph notes that the International Olympic Committee has crushed any hopes of the segregated Olympics coming to fruition. The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach released a statement regarding the proposed segregated Olympics, noting that it does not comply with rules barring discrimination.
“A commitment to “non-discrimination” will be mandatory for all countries hoping to bid for the Olympics in the future. This was made very clear in the Olympic Agenda 2020 reforms and will even be in the host city contract. If this is not applied, the bid would not be admissible. Countries like Saudi Arabia must really work to allow female athletes to ‘freely participate.'”
Bach went so far as to say, “you cannot simply ‘outsource’ certain issues to another territory”.
In fact, London 2012 was the first game that Saudi Arabia brought female athletes to compete in. The move only came after pressure by the International Olympic Committee to include women. However, the female athletes were required to wear a hijab and Sharia-compliant sportswear during the competition, which many noted certainly hindered their performance. The female athletes were also accompanied by male guardians throughout the competition.