By Duncan Mackay

Bahia Al-Hamad_shootingApril 8 - Saudi Arabia have found themselves even more isolated within the Olympic Movement after Qatar announced today that they will send at least three female athletes to London 2012, the first time they will be represented at the Games by anyone other than male competitors.

Air rifle shooter Bahia Al-Hamad (pictured) was the latest to be confirmed in their team to compete at the London, the Qatar Olympic Committee revealed.

Al-Hamad, 19, will compete in the 10 metres competition after winning a silver medal in the team event at the Arab Championships last month.

She was Qatar's most successful athlete at the 2011 Arab Games in Doha with three gold medals and two silver.

She joins swimmers Mohammed Wafa Arakji and Noor Al-Malki in the Qatar team.

All three have been granted quota places rather than qualifying automatically, arranged by the world governing bodies and the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The announcement follows worldwide condemnation following the confirmation last week by Prince Nawaf bin Faisal, the President of the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee (SAOC), that they would again not any female competitors to London 2012. 

"We are absolutely delighted that we have been able to secure another place for one of our young female athletes at London 2012," said Sheikh Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, the general secretary of the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC).

"We are grateful to the IOC for all their support in helping make this happen.

"Women have competed for Qatar in numerous international sporting events previously, such as the past three Asian Games and the inaugural 2010 Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

"It is great that our ambition to see female Qatari athletes in the Olympic Games is beginning to be achieved.

"With national sporting initiatives, such as the Qatar Schools Olympic Programme, the QOC is confident that the number of elite women athletes competing for Qatar will grow.

"We want to see more of our athletes competing and meeting the qualifying standards for international competitions.

"I am very proud that Bahia Al-Hamad will have the opportunity to compete for Qatar at London 2012.

"Her sporting successes and desire to represent her country and compete on the sporting world's greatest stage symbolises the progress we are making.

Noor Al-Malki_in_pool"Athletes like Bahia, Nada and Noor (pictured) will also provide inspiration to the next generation of female Qatari sportspeople who aspire to become Olympians."

The decision to send Qatari female athletes to the Olympics for the first time since they made their debut at Los Angeles in 1984 will help Doha's campaign to host the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics, where they are facing rivals Baku, Istanbul, Madrid and Tokyo.

The Doha bid is also being led by a woman, Noora Al Mannai, the chief executive.

"Qatar wants to actively help women take up sport and participate in international competitions," she said.

"With female Qatari athletes competing at the London Games in front of a global audience we can help break down barriers, create new, positive role models and generate more sporting opportunities for women in Qatar and across the region.

"The Doha 2020 bid is all about promoting those opportunities, using the power of sport to help empower women and girls to leave a lasting legacy of female participation across the region."

Besides Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the only other country never to have sent a female competitor to the Olympics is Brunei, who claim that they will pick any athlete who reaches the qualifying standard for the Games, regardless of gender.

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