Saudi Arabia’s exception at Olympics a mystery

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The International Olympic Committee kept South Africa out of the Games for 28 years for its apartheid policies and banned Afghanistan in 2000 for the Taliban’s repression of women, yet Saudi Arabia still is welcome despite its refusal to allow females to compete.

“Female sports activity has not existed and there is no move thereto in this regard,’’ Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, the kingdom’s sports minister and Olympic committee chief, declared this month, suggesting that Saudi women could compete on their own. “At present, we are not embracing any female Saudi participation in the Olympics or other international championships.’’

At least the desert kingdom is consistent. It’s one of only three Olympic countries that still have all-male teams and the others – Qatar (which is bidding for the 2020 Games) and Brunei – are sending token females to London. But the IOC charter couldn’t be clearer on the issue: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.’’ If the South Africans and Afghanis didn’t get a free pass, why should the Saudis?


Though IOC members have been booted out for being on the take, taking someone else’s words is a novelty. Yet both Pal Schmitt and Moon Dae Sung both have been accused of plagiarizing their doctoral theses. Schmitt, who was a two-time fencing gold medalist and a candidate to be Juan Antonio Samaranch’s presidential successor, has stepped down as Hungary’s head of state and Moon, a former taekwondo titlist who was the first Asian to be named an IOC athlete member, has resigned from his South Korean political party. Now it’s up to the IOC’s ethics commission to decide whether to recommend that both be expelled as members . . . After finishing second to their southern neighbors at the previous three world championships, Canada’s women’s ice hockey team pulled off a stunner on their archrivals’ home ice in Burlington, Vt., dethroning the Americans, 5-4, in overtime after being hammered by a record-margin 9-2 in the tournament opener. “We were really sick of silver,’’ declared Caroline Ouellette, who scored the winner after the Yanks, who’d won last year’s final in overtime, had come from two goals down.


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