Ever since I watched Cool Runnings as a child, the Olympic Games have represented to me personal achievement, pushing the hugely capable human body to the limits, overcoming injury and other setbacks, and denying free time, sleep-ins and junk food (among other things!) to be that mythical creature – an Olympian.
And yesterday, 27th July 2012, I watched as Saudi Arabia marched proudly into the stadium with something it has never had before – women.
A few years ago, female gyms were banned in the country. The pleasure I take in my country of going for a summer jog, popping into a gym for a Zumba class or keeping hand weights in my home are denied for Saudi women. In a country where they can’t open their own bank account, being allowed to compete in this spectacular event is a huge step forward for women.
In the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, 16 countries didn’t send women athletes. All 204 national teams last night waved their countries’ flags with great gusto above the heads of men and women. Like many of you reading this, I have no idea of the standard of these history-changing women, but I will be keeping one eye on the judo and 800 metres competition to see if the extra thrill of being a first results anywhere near a medal. How amazing would that be!
Change can be slow, it seems. It’s taken 116 years since the first modern Olympic games to reach this point. Too slow we might think. But oh, how sweet the victory.