RIYADH, October 30, 2017 – Women in Saudi Arabia will be allowed for the first time into major sports stadiums in its three main cities as of early next year, in another landmark decision empowering women in the Kingdom that follows King Salman’s recent historic announcement that women would be allowed to drive from June 2018.
The General Sports Authority (GSA) Chairman Turki bin Abdul Mohsen Al-Asheikh, who also heads the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, issued a decision on Sunday that three stadiums will be prepared to be ready for families as of early next year – one in the capital, Riyadh, another in the port city of Jeddah on the Red Sea and a third in the Arabian Gulf coastal city of Dammam in the Eastern Province. Currently all the facilities are male-only.
“In line with the directives of our wise leadership and its interest in all sectors of society, it has been decided to start preparing three stadiums (King Fahd International Stadium in Riyadh / King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah / Prince Mohammed Bin Fahd Stadium in Dammam) to be ready for families in accordance with the relevant regulations in early 2018,” the GSA said in a statement.
The decision comes on the heels of King Salman’s Royal Order on September 26 to allow women in Saudi Arabia to drive – from June.
A few days before the Royal Decree was issued, as the Kingdom celebrated its 87th National Day, Riyadh’s 99-storey Kingdom Centre was illuminated against the night sky not just with the portraits of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but it was also adorned with those of famous women athletes such as track athlete Sarah Al Attar and sprinter Kariman Abuljadayel, who were both part of the Saudi contingent to the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Also, as a Vision 2030 promise of a vibrant and inclusive society, women for the first time attended one-off events to celebrate the occasion, held in venues including sports stadiums, such as King Fahd International Stadium.
Earlier this month, a US-educated princess was named the head of a Saudi sport federation, the first time for a woman to occupy such a post in the Kingdom, in another sign of reform as part of the Vision 2030 strategy that mandates increased participation of women in public life. GSA Chairman Al-Asheikh issued a decree appointing Princess Reema bint Bandar as President of the Saudi Federation of Mass Participation, which is mandated with overseeing men’s and women’s sporting activities. She also serves as GSA Vice President for Planning and Development.
In a move in July that paves the way for easier access to sports facilities for women in Saudi Arabia, the GSA officially announced the launch of a new e-licensing process for gyms and fitness centers. The landmark new process, which will be rolled out through the official GSA website, creates an official, legal pathway for the licensing of female gyms and fitness centers.
In other significant moves, three women were appointed to senior positions this month at the Ministry of Labour and Social Development, while a Saudi woman was appointed to a senior municipal position in the Eastern Province last month.
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030, a bold plan to diversify the economy and boost foreign investment, aims to increase women’s participation in the workforce in Saudi Arabia to 30 percent from 22 percent.