Last year, as the Arab Spring swept through the region, King Abdullah quickly made some modest concessions, including permitting women to contest and vote in the distant 2015 municipal elections. Saudi Arabia is the only country where women are not allowed to drive, but this limited extension of franchise was seen as evidence of a new reformist spirit in the monarchy. The true test of Riyadh’s commitment to the IOC lies not in this year’s games, but whether it is willing to loosen up enough to prepare a women’s contingent for the 2016 Olympics. At the moment, this seems somewhat far-fetched; it is telling that women who play sport underground now fear there will be a greater scrutiny of their activities by the powerful religious establishment. There are a few liberal-minded Saudi royals but the monarchy derives its power and legitimacy from the religious orthodoxy. Sadly, that’s not about to change.