Much has been made about the appearance of the Egyptian beach volleyball team playing in the Olympics wearing the all-encompassing Hijab Islamic dress rather than the usual Bikini style outfit and comment has been made over how appropriate this is.
First of all I must declare that I haven’t watched one moment of the Olympics. Partly as I am too busy, partly because I find it hard to get into as I didn’t see any of the build-up but mostly because I can’t really be bothered to invest my time with the event after the way the whole drugs/cheats scandal.
Still if there is one thing that the Olympics is still nominally good at, it is bringing together competitors and fans from very different countries and cultures.
Up until the 2012 Olympics female volleyball players were obliged to wear bikinis (with the lower part no more than 7cm from top to bottom at the hip) or a one-piece swimming costume – a rule which some regarded as a transparent attempt to make the sport sexy.
It wasn’t just Joe-public who thought as much, even The Australian Sports Commission complained that the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB), the sport’s governing body, had “introduced uniforms intentionally to focus attention on the athletes’ bodies rather than for any technological, practical or performance-enhancing reasons”.
But since 2012 the rules have allowed women to wear shorts, long-sleeve shirts and body suits. British weather drove the Brazilian team, among others, to take up the full body-cover option.
Whilst taking on the German team, Egypt’s Doaa Elghobashy, became the first Olympian beach volleyball player to wear a hijab as well though, thanks to a last-minute concession from the FIVB just in time for the Rio Olympics.
“I have worn the hijab for 10 years,” Elghobashy said. “It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.”
Her partner, Nada Meawad, chose to play bare-headed.
I find neither particularly offensive though I don’t think either is ideal. Certainly the fully clothed Egyptian is dressed more in keeping with social norms than the scantily dressed Germans.
Surely what matters most is the sport itself and if either being dressed in a Hijab or a Bikini doesn’t hinder a player, or at least that player is ok with being so hindered, then why does it matter?
The only thing that would matter is if anyone is forced to wear something they disagree with and that works both ways for Bikinis or Hijabs. Personally, I think they should have a standard like their male competitors and simply play in a top and shorts. For the moment lets hope that those in Muslim countries can see you can be semi-naked and not be total sex-mad decadent alcoholic and those in Western countries that your can wear a hijab, not be a terrorist and perhaps just like doing normal things like Volleyball too.