Thousands of Syrian athletes began the Saudi Arabia-hosted Gulf skiing championships in the King Abdullah Economic City, across the Red Sea from the historic city of Jeddah.
Men and women, dressed in their ski wear, finished second and third, respectively, in the women’s side. But, as reporters waited on the sidelines, organizers dropped that story, apparently moved to reassure female members of the Saudi press corps that “the body of the women who finished was checked carefully.”
It is, of course, no secret that many Saudi women cannot leave their home to compete in sports. The International Olympic Committee has sanctioned Saudi women to try the sport only because there was no alternative.
Tournament organizers said all of the women were waiting in a hotel for their flights back to Syria. No other opposition has emerged on the internal front.
But the tensions are no more evident than in the distance from the concrete stadium and rink that are the Saudi sporting scene.
The games were drawn from a competition Russia had first hosted, in Siberia, in 2015. The International Ski Federation has run the competition in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, since. On Thursday, Olympic medalists are expected to show their face in the rostrum in a ceremony here.