— Photo by Reuters

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will allow its women athletes to compete in the Olympic Games for the first time ever in London this summer, the Islamic kingdom's London embassy said on its website.

Human rights groups had called on the International Olympic Committee to bar Saudi Arabia from competing in London, citing its failure ever to send a woman athlete to the Olympics and its ban on sports in girls’ state schools.

“I think this is a victory for Saudi sportswomen and hopefully it will promote sports and women’s health awareness for the Saudi society,” said Lina al-Maeena, co-founder of Jeddah United Sports Company, a rare women’s exercise club that runs a female basketball team.

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