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DemocracyNow.org - One of the many records broken during the 2012 Olympic Summer Games was the number of female athletes participating from the conservative Islamic nations of Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia only allowed the women to compete after the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, threatened to bar the whole team unless women were included. The controversy over the Saudi athletes is just one of the many ways in which women athletes and gender issues have come into focus during this year's Olympics. “I think we always have to remember the millions of women back in Saudi Arabia who cannot participate meaningfully in sports ... It's the only place where the 153 sports federations, not a single one has a women's section,” says Minky Worden, Director of Global Initiatives at Human Rights Watch and author of "The Unfinished Revolution: Voices from the Global Fight for Women's Rights." But, “I have very little faith in the symbolic value of women from these countries making an appearance in the Olympics,” notes Helen Jefferson Lenskyj, University of Toronto professor emeritus and author of "Olympic Industry Resistance: Challenging Olympic Power and Propaganda" and the forthcoming book, "Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry.” “I think, at worst, they're simply used as token by the sport administration and the political regimes in these countries. And at best, they might be an inspiration to some girls and women,” Lenskyj says.
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