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  • DeFrantz Confident of Female Saudi Olympians; 116th Olympic Anniversary


    DeFrantz Holds Out Hope for Saudi Female Athletes

    IOC Women and Sport chair Anita DeFrantz tells Around the Rings she thinks Saudi women will one day compete at the Olympics.

    Anita DeFrantz at last month's Fifth World Conference on Women and Sport in Los Angeles, where the Saudi situation proved a hot topic. (ATR)
    Earlier this week, Saudi Olympic Committee president Prince Nawaf bin Faisal bin Fahd Abdul Aziz said the ultraconservative government has no plans to send female athletes to London 2012.

    Despite the decision, DeFrantz says she believes Saudi women will participate in the future.

    "I am not discouraged by the statement," she tells ATR. "I am still optimistic that there will be women among the Olympians in Saudi Arabia after the London Games conclude."

    Bin Faisal said Saudi women may be able to compete on their own at the Olympics, adding that the country's NOC would "only help in ensuring that their participation does not violate the Islamic sharia law."

    Qatar Women Update

    In an Olympic Newsdesk from April 5, ATR incorrectly reported that Qatar will send women to London 2012 "bowing to IOC pressure." Qatar has in fact actively encouraged women to participate in athletics for years.

    "Qatari women have been actively participating in international sport for a number of years," Mike Lee, a communications consultant for the Qatar Olympic Committee said in an email to ATR
    "There were 100 women in the Qatari team at the Arab Games last year and they were responsible for more than 30 medals. The only reason that Qatari women have not taken part in the Olympic Games before is because they haven't qualified. It has nothing to do with exclusion.

    "Qatar has been asking the IOC for a number of years for help on qualifying standards. The QOC and Doha 2020 are delighted that at least 2 women have been granted 'invitation' places for 2012 by the IOC, said Lee."

    First Olympic Anniversary

    The opening ceremony of the first Olympic Games. (Getty Images)
    Happy 116th birthday to the Olympic Games!

    On April 6, 1896, the first Olympic Games began in Athens.

    The Games lasted until April 15 with 241 athletes from 14 countries participating in nine sports.

    Only five countries at the Athens Games have entered every Summer Olympics – Australia, Britain, France, Greece and Switzerland.

    Mutko Targets 25 Sports for Medals

    Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko said Russia hopes to medal in 25 sports in London, returning the “lost positions”.

    Speaking to state news agency RIA Novosti on Wednesday, Mutko said newly ascendant sport powers will challenge Russia at the Olympics.

    "Competition in the world of sports is growing; all countries are vying for the top positions. Huge world players like China have appeared, Africa is progressing," he said.

    "We will fight for medals in 25 forms of sport. ... We'll return the lost positions, huge work is being done."

    Russia won 72 medals in Beijing, good for third overall.

    Syrian Olympians Competing Only Out of "Fear" 

    Syria’s football team failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. (Getty Images)
    A top former international for Syria claims the country’s sportsmen and women have no interest in competing for Syria at the Olympics as long as Bashar al-Assad remains in power.

    Abdelbasset Saroot, a former goalie on Syria’s football team, says athletes "don’t want to play for a flag that they have no pride or faith in," in an interview on ITV.

    "I personally know the majority of the athletes don’t want to take part and they are only going (out of) fear (for) their families."

    Saroot is a supporter of the protest movement, aiming to topple the leadership of al-Assad, who has led a brutal crackdown for more than a year and drawn condemnation from the international community.

    "My message as a footballer, athlete and activist first of all is that we are seeing a real massacre here and the world isn’t speaking except of numbers and death tolls," he said.

    Uganda Olympic Committee Division

    The leadership of the Ugandan Olympic Committee announced their opposition to president Roger Ddungu.

    A report in Uganda’s New Vision newspaper says six of nine UOC executives, minus Ddungu, along with secretary general Penninah Kabenge held a press conference Thursday announcing their opposition.

    “The executive committee is not happy that the president is singlehandedly trying to manage the UOC like a personal business,” first vice president William Blick was quoted as saying by the paper.

    Blick also expressed displeasure with the president’s decision to appoint himself as chef de mission for the London Olympics.

    “These are not executive committee decisions and Ddungu will be liable for the consequences that arise out of his personal decisions,” he said.

    100 Greek Athletes in 2012

    Greece had 32 competitors in athletics at the Beijing Olympics. Hrysopiyi Devetzi was the lone medalist with a bronze in triple jump. (Getty Images)
    One hundred Greeks will represent their country in athletics at London 2012, a reversal from statements earlier this week that the Greek athletics federation is suspending activities.

    Panos Bitsaxis, Greek general secretary of sports, told an Athens radio station fears that the athletics team would not make it to London were misleading.

    "Greece will be in London with around 100 athletes," he said, adding: "The gentlemen at the federation must take into account the time and place that we live in today. The athletics federation is the locomotive of Greek athletics.

    "But there is no doubt that the financial crisis cannot leave Greek athletics untouched. The resources are limited."

    Written by Ed Hula III.

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