Statement by Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, on Saudi Arabian female athletes competing at the London Olympic Games12 July 2012
I warmly welcome the recent decision made by Saudi Arabia to send female athletes to London to compete in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. This decision, following a similar one by Brunei Darussalam and Qatar, marks a significant progress in realizing the right of all to take part in physical and sporting activities, and hence achieving greater gender equality in sport.
The UN family, the Olympic Movement and their partners have long joined their forces to promote the participation of women in sports activities and competitions, as well as in management and leadership roles. This is for instance reflected in the fact that today, at the Olympics, participation of athletes is almost equally balanced between women and men.
Women and girls still face today a great deal of discrimination and marginalization in all sectors of society around the world. This saddening reality applies to the world of sport, despite the remarkable advances made in that area over the past decades.
The practice of sport and physical activity, at all levels, can have immense benefits for individuals, communities and societies. No one should, on the basis of gender, race, ability, age, culture or religious considerations, be denied access to sport and miss on the positive effects its practice can bring.
Decisions such as the one taken today by the Saudi Arabian authorities definitely set a positive example and bring us gradually closer to the realization of a more equitable future, on and off the field of play.
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Antoine Tardy, Advocacy and Communications Officer
UN Office on Sport for Development and Peace
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