THE ANNOUNCEMENT that Saudi Arabia will finally allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympics is an important step to ensure that the games’ charter, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, is actually followed. But, unfortunately, that is all that the change was meant to address. Because of the systemic deprivation of women’s rights in the kingdom, where women are banned from most team sports and facilities, the nation is still far from leveling its playing field.
Indeed, it is already clear that no Saudi women will qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. Dalma Rushdi Malhas, the equestrian show jumper, did not pass muster after her horse was injured. Since there is no line behind her, the Saudi change of policy is of no practical importance.