Wednesday, 8 August 2012

muslim women at the olympics

i've just watched the first saudi women run at the olympics, in the 800 metres.  in the previous heat, there was a palestinian woman.  both women with their heads covered and fully clothed.  they both came last, by a very long margin.  but they were there, they took part, they were different, and it was ok.  more than ok - the saudi woman really did get more cheers and support as she came in than the women who qualified for the next round.  it brought tears to my eyes.

it's not that i don't see the flaws in the olympics.  the fact that the most medals are won by the countries that have the most money to spend on sports.  the fact that so many sports are inaccessible to so many different types of people - see this story about american gymnist gabby douglas & the struggle she faced (warning about the almost obligatory crotch shot in any story about young women gymnists).  there are issues about vast sums of money spent on stadiums and venues - money that could used for relief of poverty.  issues about corporates taking over the olympics, and the accessibility of being able to view all the sports - i would have loved to watch all the tennis, but i refuse to subscribe to pay tv, so i wasn't able to watch much of it.  video of various events should absolutely be available on-line, especially given that so much public funding is put in to support athletes to attend.

but despite all of these problems, it still meant something to see these muslim women, on a public stage as it were, just being part of the event.  it provides a narrative about us that is something different to the oppressed victims that permeates so much of the portrayal of muslim women.  but more than that, it's so inspirational and motivational for muslim women around the world - inspiring us to achieve but on our own terms.

my favourite athlete so far at the olympics is the russian gymnist aliya mustafina, who won the bronze medal for the individual all-round competition, a gold for the uneven bars and another bronze today for her floor routine.  i don't have a particular reason for this.  also impressive was seeing oscar pistorius compete, doing for people with disabilities what the young saudi woman has done for muslim women.

i've also been impressed by the good nature of the competition - the hand shaking & hugs, the support competitors have shown each other.  it looks pretty genuine, and isn't something i recall in previous olympics.  but i think it's really healthy.


Anonymous said...

You can see all the events online at HD feed and only a couple of minutes behind the live feed. Video of completed events is also available.


Brett Dale said...

Loved this Olympics, Great Britain has done a great job, like how the competitors have been friendly.

Highlights from a NewZealand point of view has been Mahe winning the gold and our female hockey team.

From a international point of view, the Chinese hurdler, hopping 100 metres and then being helped by other competitors, Usain Bolt and the Jamaican sprinters, and the greatest Olympian ever, Michael Phelps, the man is all class and what an inspiration to all swimmers.

What an enjoyment its been to watch.

stargazer said...

i tried that website a couple of weeks ago. it's blocked in nz. i guess sky tv has too much power here. there's an isky website, but it requires you to register & only shows what's on the free to air channel anyway.

@ brett, i find it really interesting that you felt the need to comment on this post and the one about the shooting at the wisconsin cinema, and yet had nothing to say about the killings at the sikh temple. given your stronbg defence of everything american, i would have thought you want to show some solidarity towards these sikh americans, and post some message of support for them. and yet usain bolt & michael phelps are worthy of your keyboard time. not that you're obliged to comment of course, but interesting nonetheless.

Brett Dale said...


You don't find your comments a bit hypocritical???

Every post you have done about a tragic event in America has the same footnote in it, you ask questions like

"What about the US Policy?"

"Why dont we remember other tragic events in other parts of the world?"

"Why isnt the Arab American victim being named in the media more?"

Perhaps the word hypocritical is too harsh, maybe disingenuous is better used here.

In terms of support for the Sikh Americans, thoughts and wishes go out to them and the families and friends as it does with any tragic event, six mass shootings in 13 years in one country is too much.

For me the Olympics were about Usain Bolt (Im not sure what his religion is, I dont care) and Michael Phelps, class acts all the way and an inspiration to all sportspeople.

stargazer said...

all extremely valid questions brett, nothing hypocritical about that at all. also, very many americans are currently questioning US policy around gun laws in light of these recent incidents.

Eva Sajoo said...