Posted by: Tanmoy Chakrabarti | August 7, 2012

Shaherkani

The President of the International Olympic Committee in his address delivered in the opening ceremony declared how proud he is that every participating team in the current games has a woman participant. He however did not mention about the arm twisting that IOC had to do, in order for him to declare that.

It can be argued that it is the democratic right of a sovereign state to send the best sports person to represent their own country, and IOC should not have much to do about it. However, IOC manages Olympics so it is within their rights to bar countries which did not include any woman athletes in their team. I would like to believe that IOC directive was possibly driven by those countries that are known to discriminate against women, but I do not have much regard for associations like IOC and FIFA or their intent. May be they were politically motivated in their intent, who knows? I am not really keen on that. I am against any form of discrimination in the name of religion, gender, colour, caste and culture and I appreciate those women who were bold enough to represent these countries in the Olympics.

Wojdan Shaherkani’s judo bout against Puerto Rican Melissa Mojica lasted only 82 seconds, but her becoming the first Saudi woman to compete in the Olympics surely should give lot of courage to women in her country and in other societies. Some Saudi women who openly challenge the status quo (of women not having equal rights and responsibilities) praised Wojdan for her courage but criticised the expedience that got her to that Olympic mat in London without a black belt or any competition experience. They reckon the gesture was nothing more than a sham to satisfy political obligations. Perhaps they are correct, but I believe debates such as these in countries like Saudi Arabia is probably good.

I agree with Lina al-Maeena, the founder of a women’s basketball league in Jeddah, who in her interview with the New York Times had said that she understands the other side of the arguments but wants to focus of the positives. She believed that even a symbolic gesture could lead to improvement in the situation and predicted that Saudi women would be allowed to train for the next Olympic Games.

I watched the Shaherkani’s 82 seconds on the television and enjoyed it.

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