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APNewsBreak: IOC says progress made for Saudis to send women athletes to Olympics for 1st time
LONDON (AP) ' The IOC said Monday that it has made progress in talks with Saudi Arabia on sending women athletes and officials to the Olympics for the first time at the London Games.
Saudi Arabia is one of three countries that has never included women in its Olympic teams, along with Qatar and Brunei. The International Olympic Committee is now hopeful that all three will send females to London, marking the first time every competing nation is represented by women.
"The 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 IOC said.
The IOC said it held a "very constructive meeting" last week with Saudi Olympic Committee officials in Lausanne, Switzerland, about the inclusion of women in London and "Saudi Arabia's culture and traditions."
A list of potential female athletes was presented to the IOC, and those names will now be studied by the Olympic body and relevant international sports federations to assess their level.
A formal proposal for the participation of Saudi women will be submitted to the IOC executive board at its meeting in Quebec City from May 23-25.
Because the women may not meet the international qualifying standards, the IOC may need to consider special circumstances for their inclusion.
IOC President Jacques Rogge said in an interview with The Associated Press last week that he was "optimistic" that Saudi Arabia would send women athletes to London.
"It depends on the possibilities of qualifications, standards of different athletes," he said. "We're still discussing the various options."
One potential contender for a place on the Saudi team could be equestrian Dalma Rushdi Malhas, who won a bronze medal in show jumping at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore.
Qatar announced last month that it will use IOC wild-card invitations to send at least two women ' a swimmer and sprinter ' to London. Two others could be added to the list.
Brunei is also expected to include women this time, according to the IOC.
If the talks with Saudi Arabia prove successful, all national Olympic committees in London would include women athletes for the first time in Olympic history. About 204 national Olympic committees are expected to compete in London, representing 10,500 athletes.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of violating the IOC charter on gender equality. In interviews with Saudi women and international sporting officials, the group found that Saudi government restrictions put sports beyond the reach of almost all women in the Gulf nation.