The Olympics ended with an amazing closing ceremony yesterday. For me, the highlight was the Spice Girls’ fantastic 3-minute reunion. They put on a spectacular show that reminded me of the many hours I spent trying to learn their dance moves as a child.
There was much to celebrate as many Arab nations made history with their victories. Tunisia’s Oussama Mellouli won the gold medal in the men’s 10k Marathon, as well as a bronze medal in the 1500 Meter Freestyle Final. Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiya won the bronze medal in Men’s Skeet shooting. Habiba Ghribi of Tunisia won the silver medal in the Women’s 3000 meter Steeplechase final. Other athletes from Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia were also able to medal in their events.
Once the closing ceremony was over, I decided to look at how the first two female Saudi Olympians did in their events. I expected nothing but praise for their brave participation. Despite the fact that neither was even close to medaling, both received standing ovations from the crowds in London. Their participation was symbolic of Saudi Arabian women’s ongoing struggle for gender equality within their nation.
Wojdan took part in the judo competition, while Sarah participated in the 800 meter race. Neither was actually prepared for the Olympics. Along with the rest of the world, they were informed they were chosen to participate a mere weeks before the competition, as the government scrambled to secure whomever they could find to avoid a country-wide participation ban.
Despite receiving standing ovations in London, reactions back home were mixed, and, as I found out, somewhat despicable. My most shocking discovery was a hash tag on twitter that described Sarah and Wojdan as the “prostitutes of the Olympics.”الاولمبياد#عاهرات_
These derogatory comments shouldn’t be directed at anyone, let alone two brave women who knew they had no chance of medaling, and still decided to participate in the name of the entire country. With very little competitive experience, neither woman shied away from their events, stating that they participated on behalf of every Saudi women. In my book, both Sarah and Wojdan are heroes, and proved themselves to be braver than anyone attacking their morality on Twitter.
This is a call to support Sarah and Wojdan, and let them know that what they did was nothing short of courageous and honorable. There needs to be more gratitude for them. I don’t know if I would have been bold enough to do what they did. Spread the word and offer your support for ابطال_الاولمبياد#, and let’s overshadow that shameful hash tag.
And to the so-called ultraconservative Saudi men still sharing their hateful views: let’s not forget, if it wasn’t for Sarah and Wojdan, Saudi Arabia would not have had an Olympic presence at all this year.