Saudi Arabia’s Country Profile
Official country name: Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Area: 756,985 sq miles (1,960,582 sq km)
Population: 27.6 million (2007 est.), including 5.6 million foreigners working in Saudi Arabia; in 1990, when the foreign work force was at 4.6 million, it included large numbers of Egyptians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Bahrainis, Pakistanis, Indians, and Filipinos, in that order.
Median age: 21.4
Ethnic Groups: All Saudis are Arabs, as are about half the foreign workers in Saudi Arabia
GDP and GDP per capita: $349.1 billion and $14,745 (2006 estimates)
Read a complete country profile of Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s Olympic History
First time represented at Summer Olympics: 1972
Gold medals won: 0
Athletes at the Beijing Olympics: 19
Number of Sports competing in at Beijing Olympics:5
Medals at 2008 Beijing Olympics: 0
Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Playbook
Saudi Arabia is a problem. Should this country even be at the Olympics? There’s not a merely strong argument for banning it from competition. There’s incontrovertible evidence, and an unequivocal rule. The incontrovertible evidence is that Saudi Arabia bans women from participating in public sports, the Olympics included—the Olympics especially. The unequivocal rule is laid out in the Charter of the International Olympic Committee, what the IOC calls “a basic instrument of a constitutional nature.”
Principle 4: The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play. The organisation, administration and management of sport must be controlled by independent sports organisations.”
Principle 5: “Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”
Seems clear enough. Yet Saudi Arabia doesn’t see it that way. Discriminating against women is fine with the Kingdom's Wahhabi ethos. But if the IOC banned South Africa from participation in the Games from 1968 through 1988 over South Africa’s policy of apartheid, why not ban Saudi Arabia (and a few other countries like it) over its policy of rank sexism?
That said, Saudi Arabia will be represented by 19 athletes in five sports in Beijing, including, of course, equestrian. They don’t call them Arabian horses for nothing. Eight years ago Khaled al Eid got himself a bronze in the individual jumping equestrian event. Hadi Souan Somayli won a silver in the same Games in the 400m hurdles.
That’s about it for Saudi Arabia since the kingdom began attending summer games in 1972.
Interesting sidenote: While Jimmy Carter was wondering whether to boycott the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow to protest the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia went ahead and announced it would boycott regardless, making it the first country to declare against the Games. Saudi Arabia’s objection was not merely that Soviet tanks had invaded a sovereign nation; it’s pretty certain that had the Soviets invaded China or Mongolia, the Saudis would have gladly gone to Moscow. No. The Saudi’s problem was that the Red Star was invading Muslim land.
Of course, it still doesn’t matter to their highness the Saudis if women’s rights are trampled every day. They’ll still play. Just don’t tell them anything about human rights or dignity.
Saudi Arabia’s Athletes at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
Ramzy Al Duhami
Abdullah Al Saud
Faisal Al Shalan
Bader Abdulrahman Almuhana
Track & Field/Athletics
Ali Ahmad S Alamri
Sultan Mubarak M Aldawodi
Sultan Abdulmajeed EAlhebshi
Mohammed Salman HAl Khuwaildi
Mukhlid Mahil F Alotaibi
Hussain Taher A Al Saba
Mohammed Obaid A Alsalhi
Ahmed Faiz Bin Marzouq
Yahya Hassan I Habeeb
Mohammed Othman H Shaween
Ali Hussein Aldhilab