1. A tween rugby phenom is being denied an opportunity to play with the boys. Jessica Neilson, 12, who has trained with elite female rugby players, was barred from competing on her middle school team this year after having done so for the past few years (along with several other girls) because the school does not have a girls' team. Some strange bureaucracy is at work. Neilson's junior high became a middle school, which means the sports are now under the auspices of the Lower Island Middle School Sports Association. Although it has a non-discrimination policy that prevents discrimination on the basis of sex it also has an explicit rule that no girls are to play on boys' teams and boys are not to play on girls' team. Though Jessica and her mother have appealed the rule, there has been no decision which means Jessica keeps losing opportunities to play.
2. A group of Saudi women are playing basketball and hoping to one day represent their country in international play. It will be an uphill battle, though, given the restrictions on women playing sports, traveling without male guardianship, and mingling with men. Saudi Arabia has been especially strict in their stance on women and physical activity with some clerics deeming it un-Islamic; the reason they successfully gave to ban physical education for girls. Gyms for women were closed in the 90s though some now exist in affiliation with hospitals. Unlike other Muslim countries in which women are participating in sports in greater numbers and accommodations are being made to allow them to remain practitioners of both sport and religion, Saudi Arabia seems to be moving backward. Recently cancelled were two events for women: a marathon, and a soccer match. And Saudi Arabia will have no women in its Olympic delegation this summer in Beijing. The IOC has pressured the Saudis to add women but in general outside pressure from Western countries usually has a limited (as in no) effect on engendering change because much of the concern is Western influence and decadence. It appears that change will have to come from within and it may given the dedication and desire exhibited by many Saudi sportswomen.