The historic presence of women at this year's Olympic Games is adding to the enthusiasm of organizers and officials, athletes and - hopefully - fans. (Source: MGN)
LONDON (RNN) – If the presence of the female athletes in this year's Olympic Games has escaped your notice – look again.
The gender makeup of the field of athletes in London was a story long before these games began, and the yearlong celebration of the 40th anniversary of Title IX just kept on rolling with Friday night's Opening Ceremony.
For the first time in Olympic history, every nation had a female competitor.
That includes three countries that sent women athletes to the Olympics for the first time, including Saudi Arabia - a hotbed of women's rights - as well as Brunei and Qatar.
In one of the ultimate shows of womanhood, Malaysia's Nur Suryani Mohammed Taibi competed in the 10-meter air rifle competition while she was eight months pregnant. While her 34th-place finish might not seem at all respectable, it's superb when you have a baby kicking around in your belly.
This is also the first Olympics that female athletes for the U.S. have outnumbered male athletes.
The 530-member team consists of 269 women, eight more than the men, according to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Team members voted for a woman to carry the flag for Opening Ceremonies – two-time gold medalist Mariel Zagunis.
"I'd like to congratulate Mariel on this tremendous honor," said U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun. "It's especially fitting in the year of the 40th anniversary of Title IX, when Team USA for the first time in history has more women than men, that Mariel receive the extraordinary honor that is carrying our nation's flag into this celebration of humanity."
Women will also compete in boxing for the first time in Olympic history, and there are three Americans with strong track records in the sport.
The first U.S. Olympian to medal in an individual competition in five consecutive Games might be a woman - 33-year-old shooter Kim Rhode.
Not-so-wide world of sports
International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge highly praised the efforts of all the countries during his comments near the conclusion of Friday night's ceremony, calling it "a major boost for gender equality."
Qatar wasted no time announcing its female presence during its historic march into Olympic Stadium.
The country's flag bearer was a woman - Bahya Mansour Al Hamad, a 20-year-old shooter who will compete in two rifle events.
But as many Olympians know, with progress comes hurdles.
Saudi Arabia's female entries into these Games - judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani and runner Sarah Attar - bore the brunt of nasty criticism from conservative Muslims.
According to Reuters, opponents identifying themselves as Saudis filled a Twitter hashtag called "Olympic_Whores."
Comments called their participation a "great sin" and alleged that the athletes wanted to compete so they could intentionally fall down and reveal their figures to countless onlookers.
There were also, however, several post in support of the women, including some from women.
"Women walking behind the Saudi delegation is historic," wrote a Saudi woman who identified herself as Safaa. "Next we'll be carrying the flag and walking side by side, equal."
Although Brunei and Qatar confirmed entries of women athletes into the Olympics earlier this year, Saudi Arabia was in negotiations with the IOC until two weeks ago to allow Shaherkani and Attar to compete.
Even now, it is not a guarantee that both of the athletes will perform.
Saudi officials said Shaherkani would have to wear a hijab, an Islamic headscarf, during judo competition next week.
However, International Judo Federation President Marius Vizer said fighting while wearing a hijab would not comply with "the principle and spirit of judo."
Both sides are still working on a resolution to the issue.
"We still have one week. She is still scheduled to compete," IJF spokesman Nicolas Messner told Reuters. "There's no information that she won't compete. We still have time."
Copyright 2012 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
The Winter and Summer Olympics have been held in many cities, each having a distinct history and culture. There have been 29 Summer Olympic Games held in 22 different cities and 21 Winter Games held in 18 different cities. Check out this interactive map to see where each Olympiad was held and highlights from the competitions. More >
The 2012 Olympic games in London are fast approaching and Team USA is ready to showcase their best. Keep an eye on these athletes as they represent the red, white and blue on an international stage.More >
The 2012 Olympic Games in London are fast approaching and Team USA is ready to showcase their best. Keep an eye on these athletes as they represent the red, white and blue on an international stage.More >