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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California

First Olympics' "Conference On Women" Hosted in L.A.

The International Olympics Committee aims to increase women Olympic athletes.

It was the first time that The International Olympic Committee's quadrennial "World Conference on Women and Sport" was held in the United States.
Lord Sebastian Coe, the Chairman of the London 2012 Olympic games attended the luncheon this Thursday to discuss ways that through sport they can connect, aspire and empower and  women all around the world. However, his message went far beyond just female athletes and reached the entire international community at large.
"Our mantra is: if you get the experience right for the athletes and the people who prepare the teams and deliver the sport, then athletes will perform well, and the world will be inspired, especially young people."
An Olympic champion himself, Coe was delighted to be in Los Angeles--the city where he won a gold and silver medal in the 1500m and 800m track at the 1984 Olympic games. Jacques Rogge, the president of the Olympics as well as other international delegates were at the conference, where they discussed the importance of women's role not just in sports, but also in leadership positions across the globe.
Barry Sanders, Chairman of the Olympic Games Committee in Southern California admired the role that the international community continues to play in creating a fair opportunities for women through sports. "In 1984, %24 of the athletes were women. In Beijing % 43 of women were athletes. We're pushing for %50 now." said Barry.
Hoping to increase female presence in sports, there are still a few countries such as Saudi Arabia that ban certain female activities, and thus rule out female presence in the Olympics.
Just recently, the Human Rights Watch- a New York based advocacy group, called on the International Olympic Committee to take a harder line with Saudi Arabia's national Olympic committee unless it begins significant reform on its policies towards female attendance in the games.
Dalma Rushi Malhas competed for Saudi Arabia at the Youth Olympic Games, but is considered unlikely to make it to 2012 London games.
Amidst growing tensions in the Middle East and other parts of the world, many delegates including the UK and US representatives believe that sports can create a reforming dialogue between the international community and the countries that still find it difficult to lift restrictions against women. They thus regard sports as a tool to bridge certain cultural and politically distorted barriers, "Sports makes those changes in a way that politicians can't do." said Coe.
Rania Elwani-the Egyptian delegate, is a former African record-holding swimmer and gold medalist from Egypt; a mother of two, she is also a medical doctor. Rania applaud the role of sports in educating countries, and its' ability to break their fears towards cultural and religious divides.
"I respect my culture. I put a veil the second day I quit swimming, because I respected both things, because I have my culture in me and I also wanted to practice in the Olympics." said Rania.
She also added that despite the regulations that some Gulf-region countries impose on female athletes and women in general, there are a few sports that women can play while still wearing the Hijab. However, she pointed out that it's time for everyone to get educated and to show women that it's ok to ask for more.
"I'm very lucky, because I  had my family who supported me all along, and events like this certainly educate restricted cultures; and if we play by the rules and slowly find ways to participate in international events, we can teach women and young girls to be inspired and follow their dreams." said Rania


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