Saudi Arabia to allow women to attend sports events in stadiums

Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia will allow women into sports stadiums for the first time from next year, according to officials.

The historic move comes just a month after the country granted women the right to drive.

Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority made the announcement over the weekend, tweeting that preparations will begin to ‘accommodate families’.

Women will have access to three stadiums in the major cities of Riyadh, Jiddah and Dammam.

Of the three stadiums, two hold the highest seating capacity in the kingdom; the King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh and the King Abdullah Sports City in Jiddah.

“Sports stadiums in Saudi Arabia to open their doors to welcome women in 2018,” Princess Reema Bandar bint Al-Saud, the vice president for women’s affairs of the General Sports Authority, announced to her followers.

“The decision warms the hearts of the nation’s women,” she added.

“Congratulations to us.”

Currently, there has been specification as to how the stadiums will regulate where women will sit in relation to men.

In many public places in Saudi Arabia, such as parks, beaches and public transport, men and women are segregated.

In a speech last week, the crown prince said described plans to build a futuristic city run solely on alternative energy, and admitted that he wanted a “life in which our religion translates to tolerance”.

A promotional video for his proposed development shows women running in sports bras and working alongside men in mixed-gender offices without wearing the hijab.

“We were not like this in the past,” he said, The Washington Post reported. “We want to go back to what we were: moderate Islam.”

However, the news of the mixed-gender stadiums saw a hashtag circulated that translated to “Would you agree to marry a girl who enters stadiums?”

The criticism has not stopped leaders like the princess from championing rights for women in sports and recreation. Earlier in the month, she became the first woman to be appointed president of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports, which manages  activities for men and women.

The princess, who was raised in the United States, has pushed to license women’s-only gyms and sports clubs.

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