Saudi Arabia to send two women to the Olympics

Change is a hard, slow process for some countries, especially when it comes to social issues. No area of the world does this hit home harder than in the Middle East as various nations struggle with the (in their case) fine line between human rights and adherence to the rules of their religion.

It is against this backdrop that makes the Olympics such a great event, it's not about where you are from as much as it is the fleeting few seconds competing in sport on the biggest stage of the world. On Monday, a report surfaced via the Associated Press that no women from Saudi Arabia qualified for the London Olympics but it appears the country has reversed course and agreed on Thursday to send two women to the games to compete in judo and track and field.

"With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow female competitors from Qatar and Brunei, it means that by London 2012 every national Olympic committee will have sent women to the Olympic Games," International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge said.

The kingdom of just over 27 million people will send Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani in judo and 800-meter runner Sarah Attar.

"A big inspiration for participating in the Olympic Games is being one of the first women for Saudi Arabia to be going," Attar, 17, said in an IOC statement from her training base in San Diego. "It's such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport."

The Saudis faced significant lobbying from various groups around the world due to their stance on women competing in the games but relented by submitting the pair's names by the deadline on Monday. The 2012 games will result in a number of significant gender milestones, such as the United States sending more females than males to the Olympics for the first time ever and Qatar not only allowing a woman to compete but to be country's flag-bearer in the opening ceremonies.

In Beijing, three countries did not have a woman on their national team but it appears the slow and steady march of progress female athletes will be taking another step as the parade of athletes circles to kick off the London games with a female athlete having marched behind every country's flag.

Information from the Associated Press contributed to this post.

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