IOC chief vows to keep up pressure on Saudi Arabia

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(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has vowed to keep up the pressure on Saudi Arabia over its refusal to send a women's team to the Games.

IOC president Jacques Rogge said the organisation was still talking to officials from the Gulf kingdom.

"We are always talking to Saudi Arabia (about sending a women's team to the London Games) and we expect a very rapid conclusion," said Rogge in comments published by AFP.

Earlier this month, the head of the Saudi Olympic Committee ruled out sending women athletes to the London Olympics.

Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said, however, that Saudi women taking part independently are free to do so and the kingdom's Olympic authority would "only help in ensuring that their participation does not violate the Islamic sharia law".

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei are the only three countries never to have sent women athletes to the Olympics.

But Qatar, which is hoping to stage the 2020 Games, has said it will send three to London - shooter Bahia Al-Hamad, swimmer Nada Mohammed Wafa Arakji and Noor Al-Malki, a 100m and 200m sprinter.

Human Rights Watch last week criticised Saudi Arabia for its stance on female athletes.

“If the International Olympic Committee was looking for an official affirmation of Saudi discrimination against women in sports, the minister in charge just gave it,” said Christoph Wilcke, senior Middle East researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“It is impossible to square Saudi discrimination against women with the noble values of the Olympic Charter,” Wilcke said.

Human Rights Watch urged the IOC to put Saudi discrimination against women in sport on the agenda of its next executive board meeting in Quebec on May 23.

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