Posted by Zia Shah
(CNN) — Saudi Arabia will let its female athletes compete in the Olympics for the first time, its embassy in London said.
Until now, Saudi Arabia was one of three countries that did not allow women to participate in the games.
The other two — Qatar and Brunei — also reversed course this year and said they will send athletes to the London games that begin July 27.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia wishes to reaffirm its support for the sublime meanings reflected by Olympic Games and the cherished values of excellence, friendship and respect that they represent,” the Saudi embassy in London said in a statement, announcing its decision.
The International Olympic Committee had been pressing Saudi Arabia to allow women to compete and act as officials, and said in March that talks were going well.
“IOC is confident that Saudi Arabia is working to include women athletes and officials at the Olympic Games in London in accordance with the International Federations’ rules,” the committee said March 19.
The decision is a rare concession for a kingdom where women are banned from driving.
They also cannot vote or hold public office, though that will change in 2015. Read more.