It's history in the making, or is it?
Though Saudi Arabia has stated its intention to send women athletes to the Olympics for the first time, with three weeks until the opening ceremony, the signs aren't promising.
Saudi's most likely female representative is showjumper Dalma Rushdi Malhas, but her horse is reportedly injured - ruling her out. And even International Olympic Committee (IOC) chief Jacques Rogge said he couldn't guarantee Saudi female athletes would appear at the London Games.
The Saudis are going to be "the skunks at the garden party" if they fail to send any female competitors to the Olympics, Minky Worden of Human Rights Watch told TrustLaw.
She criticised as a "terrible, cynical Catch-22" the Saudi government's pledge to send women athletes who “qualify” for the Games. How can they be expected to qualify, she asked, when so few women are allowed to play sports, let alone to professional level?
Female participation in sports has long been a controversial issue in the ultra-conservative kingdom, where powerful clerics castigate women for exercising and girls are banned from sports in state schools. In 2009, a senior cleric said excessive "movement and jumping" required in football and basketball might cause girls to tear they hymens and lose their virginity.
However, under King Abdullah, the government has pushed for women to have better education and work opportunities in an effort to address some of the problems for women in a country where their legal status is lower than a man's.
HRW's Worden said this was a critical moment for Saudi women.
"This is an essential moment because King Abdullah is not in good health as has been thoroughly documented. Several crown princes have died in the last year alone and whoever succeeds him is going to have to consolidate his position with religious conservatives," she said.
"So we're at a moment where if we don't have reform in relation to sports and physical fitness for women in the country, it may not come for years."
Although women are able to play in their homes or in private schools, an attempt to step beyond that to play professionally or in public competitions provokes public criticism for going against their natural role.
Newspaper articles referring to such women as "shameless" when they play sports are a cause of great embarrassment for the women and their families.
"IOC is in the best position - as a global institution - to turn up the heat on Saudi Arabia before the Olympics," Worden said.
HRW wants the IOC to get tougher with its demands – for example, requiring Saudi Arabia to lay out a timetable for introducing into schools physical education for girls.
The rights group says the kingdom could send a powerful message by allowing a woman to carry the Saudi flag at the opening ceremony. It is also calling for protection for any women who do take part in the Games given the likelihood of harassment and death threats back home.
Worden cited the example of Qatar as a country that has made giant strides since the last Olympics in Beijing, when the Gulf state fielded an all-male team. This time around, Qatari women will be not only participants but standard-bearers too.
(Editing by Tim Large)