A for Athlete

IOC unhappy with lack of support of women[]

October 2009

IOC president Jacques Rogge and the International Olympic Committee are unhappy with three countries for failing to support the participation of female athletes.

Rogge did not name the countries, but said they all pose "religious, cultural and political difficulties for women" to compete in sports.

"We are engaged now in high-reaching discussions with these countries to try and persuade them to be a little more liberal or positive about women's sport," Rogge said on the last day of the IOC session in the Danish capital. "We're engaging in quiet diplomacy with them.

"To name names will make the task of the people I talk to more difficult."

Rogge said he hopes to report "good results" for at least two of the countries soon. But he said the third was showing no signs of improvement and could face sanctions from the IOC.

Anita DeFrantz, head of the IOC women and sports commission, has previously singled out Saudi Arabia (also known as KSA) Flag of Saudi Arabia for barring women from its Olympic teams. She has suggested the Saudis should be excluded from the 2012 London Olympics unless they end their male-only policy.

Qatar (also known as QAT) Flag of Qatar sent a male-only team to the 2008 Beijing Games. Brunei (also known as BRU) Flag of Brunei's policies also have come under scrutiny. Several Arab countries that formerly excluded women -- Oman (also known as OMA) Flag of Oman, Yemen (also known as YEM) Flag of Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (also known as UAE) Flag of the United Arab Emirates, for example -- have relented and sent female athletes to Beijing.

Overall, the world of sport is leading the way when it comes to gender equality, Rogge said.

"If you look at women today in sport, we are way ahead of the political, economic and cultural world in terms of women who participate in sport," Rogge told The Associated Press. "So we're not too bad. But we'll do more."

A debate about gender equality broke out during the IOC session Friday after Mohamed Mzali of Tunisia (also known as TUN) Flag of Tunisia asked the body to reconsider allowing women's boxing on the program for the 2012 Olympics in London.

"I have difficulty in imagining young women, with good figures" fighting in the ring "and receive hard knocks on their breasts, which are meant to feed babies," Mzali said.

The comments drew a sharp rebuke from several members.

"Olympic women's boxing does not seem to be a high-risk sport at all, with respect to injuries," said IOC medical commission chief Arne Ljungqvist, who studied the issue before the organization approved the discipline's inclusion in August. "Women's boxing is less harmful than men's boxing."