Saudis angry over Olympic judo hijab ban

Saudi Arabia have complained to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after judo fighter Wojdan Shaherkani was banned from wearing the hijab head scarf during competition.

The 18-year-old heavyweight, a member of a two-woman team who are the first female competitors sent from the conservative kingdom to an Olympics, was ordered by the International Judo Federation to fight with her head uncovered.

But the Saudis have lodged a complaint over the ban.

"At the moment we are discussing with the International Judo Federation and the Saudi Arabia Olympic Committee to find a solution for her to compete," an IOC spokesman told AFP on Friday.

"I don't think she has to compete until August 3. The rules of the federation are she cannot wear a scarf for safety reasons."

IJF president Marius Vizer had told the Saudi fighter the hijab cannot be worn in competition.

"The Saudi Arabian athlete will take part in judo and she will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab," said Vizer following Thursday's draw.

Judo applies strict safety rules and any covering on the head is deemed to present a risk to the fighter's health.

Saudi Arabia only agreed to send a women's team to London on condition their two athletes respect a strict dress code.

The country's most senior sports official Prince Nawaf bin Faisal said that the duo would be allowed to compete so long as they were "wearing suitable clothing that complies with sharia (religious law)".

Additionally he added other stipulations, including "the athlete's guardian agrees and attends with her," and that "there must also be no mixing with men during the Games".

Men and women share the judo training venue, warm-up area in the competition hall and fight side-by-side on the various mat areas inside the arena.

American-raised 800m runner Sarah Attar is the second woman in the Saudi squad in London.

She has spent little time in the Islamic kingdom and grew up mostly in California, where she took up cross-country running.

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