Sunday, December 16, 2007

News from around the world

1. Last time I wrote about international events, I mentioned the report out of the UK about the decrease in the activity level of women that is causing some concern among health experts and proponents of women's sports and physical activity. This story offers a different angle on the report that other news outlets do not seem to be addressing: the physical activity level of Muslim women. Some of the reason for the disproportionate level of activity is attributed to the different constraints on some Muslim women. Those who wear the hijab and/or adhere to the rules of sex segregation have an especially difficult time engaging in sport and other physical activities once they leave school.

But the issues are being addressed--including in Great Britain where more and more opportunities are being especially created for Muslim women as well as opportunities that would not preclude Muslim women's participation. These involve sex-segregated spaces in locations with Muslim large populations. Also, sportswear manufacturers have been designing clothes that allow freedom of movement, comfort, and the benefits of technology but still cover women who would like to wear the hijab. We could call it altruism on the part of Nike who outfitted Rugaya al Ghasara of Bahrain at the Asian Games last year and makes Muslim-friendly clothing. But the potential cash reward is great. More and more Muslim women are involved in sport and there are 650 million women practicing Islam worldwide.

2. It's almost tennis season again! Oh, that's right. There is barely an off-season in tennis anyway, which makes the news that this year's Australian Open will be the strongest ever all the more surprising. Of course there are still weeks left during which players can injure themselves, decide they aren't really over an injury or illness, or just realize that their off-season training is not going to cut it down under. But as of now 99 of the top 100-ranked women in the world are planning on showing up in Australia next month.

3. I was always surprised, when looking at the rosters of women's collegiate ice hockey (especially University of New Hampshire), how many women had played youth hockey in Mississauga, Ontario. Now I have an idea of how Mississauga was pumping out these great players: Mabel Boyd. Boyd, who died earlier this month, started ice hockey teams (and baseball, too) for girls and welcomed anyone who showed up regardless of skill level. The current director of the Ontario Women's Hockey Association, Fran Rider was a beneficiary of Boyd's organizing. She found Boyd's team during the 60s when women just didn't have many opportunities to play hockey--yes, even in Canada. Rider believes Boyd helped thousands of female athletes over her lifetime.

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