London Olympics 2012 will be remembered by people not only for its record performances, fireworks and arrangements of opening and closing ceremonies or racial tweets. But also for some of its groundbreaking initiatives that will define the golden moments of the event.
One of them was a Saudi woman athlete, Sarah Attar competing in track and field event dressed wearing a hijab. For the first woman from Saudi Arabia to compete in Olympics principle was more important than performance.
Covered in clothing from head to toe even in sweltering heat in the Olympics Stadium, Sarah finished last and more than a half-minute slower than her nearest competitor, but the standing ovation she received after the crossed the finish line was definitely a gold medal for her.
"This is such a huge honor and an amazing experience, just to be representing the women," Attar said. "I know that this can make a huge difference."
Sarah’s debut came five days after another Saudi judo athlete, 16-year-old, Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani became the first athlete to represent her country at an Olympics event. Like her compatriot, Wodjan competed in the event by wearing a sports-styled hijab, a form of religious headscarf. Regarding her participation Saudi Olympics Committee and International Judo Federation remained at an impasse for long.
The judo federation informed her that she cannot wear a hijab in competition. However, Saudi Olympics Committee and Wodjan remained firm on their stance of competing in the event on the basis of being allowed to wear a hijab.
Finally, judo federation had to allow her to participate on her own conditions.
The 2012 London Olympics Games is the first to feature women from every National Olympic Committee across the world. It is interesting to mention here that this also includes Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Egypt, Yemen and even Afghanistan. Even though athletes from these countries have not done particularly well, most of them have been cheered and celebrated by the crowd uproariously.
The participation of females like Sarah and Wodjan actually project the true face of women in the Muslim world. Moreover, the participation of female athletes from ultraconservative societies like Saudi Arabia will play a pivotal role in removing the stereotypes that were created in the past. It will help in the formation of a new and more progressive image of women from the Muslim world and will open new borders for other women of these countries.