The 2012 London Olympics have had a strong focus on women: for the first time women will be competing in all sports and every country has sent at least one female athlete.
While this does all look mighty good on paper, “male” sports remain overall more popular and male athletes are often better paid, make use of better facilities (flying business vs. flying coach) and receive more face time than their female counterparts. And while much of the attention female athletes receive is focused on their looks (beach volleyball anyone?), the major decision-makers in sports are still predominantly male. (It should be added that 1984 gold medalist Nawal el Moutawakel is now the first woman from a Muslim nation in the role of Vice President of the International Olympic Committee.)
For Brunei, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, this will be the first time sending a female athlete to the Olympic Games. All three countries are, and this has been pointed out numerous times, Muslim-majority nations. Both Qatar and Brunei let the world know early on that they will be sending in female athletes for these Games. The tiny Asian nation of Brunei is sending one female this year, hurdler Maziah Mahusin, which does not seem like a lot, but in 2008 Brunei did not even participate in the Games, and the country has sent in only four athletes to previous Games. Mahusin is part of a delegation that consists of three athletes in total. Qatar has been more successful, sending sizeable teams to previous Games. This year, Qatar has sent four female athletes, competing in four different disciplines, and says it will continue to promote women’s sports in the country. This is no surprise; Qatar has aspirations to host several major international sport events (lost the bid for the 2020 Olympics), and will host the FIFA Soccer World Cup in 2022. [Read more...]