Women have been competing in the modern era of the Olympic Games since 1900. Only the first Olympics, held in 1896, specifically excluded the female gender. Since then, women have been involved in sport in greater numbers and with increasing success, but have yet to reach the level of participation and celebration that men enjoy throughout the world.
Of the 205 participating countries in London 2012, only three have never sent female athletes to compete. The 2012 Olympics will change that statistic forever. Qatar has confirmed it will be using wildcard slots to send Bahiya al-Hamad (air rifle), Nada Arkaji (swimming), and Norr al-Malki (sprinter) to London. Brunei plans to send a woman for the first time as well, most likely the 400m runner, Maziah Mahusin. And Saudi Arabia finally agreed in June to lift the ban forbidding women from competing; Sarah Attar will run the 800m and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani will compete in the judo competition. Hopes persist that this gender inclusion might be a small step toward penetrating the strong tribal, cultural, and religious barriers restricting women in sport. Beyond the sporting world, Saudi Arabia recently reached a milestone in women's rights. In Sept. 2011, King Abdullah granted women the right to vote and run for seats on the Shura council, which advises the King on policy issues. Prior to that, Saudi Arabia was the only country in the world that had not granted women suffrage.
In another first for the female gender, women’s boxing will debut in London this summer, with 36 competitors vying in three women’s events: fly, middle, light (compared with the men’s 10). And if you were wondering what the boxers might be wearing, the International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) ruled that female boxers will wear "either shorts or the option of a skirt."
Boxing: Begins Sat. July 28 and runs until Sun. Aug. 12