Arab sportswomen finally in the picture

Story highlights

Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei allowing female athletes at Olympics for first time

Photo exhibition Hey'Yah -- Arabic for let's go -- shows female athletes from the Arab world

Photographer Brigitte Lacombe says her work shows the modern, engaged face of Arab women

CNN  — 

On Friday morning, Wojdan Shaherkani will set a new Olympic record. By participating in the first round of the Olympic judo competition she will become the first Saudi woman to take part in any Olympic Games.

Qatar and Brunei are also allowing female athletes to compete at the Olympics for the first time, making these Games a landmark for Arab women. Celebrating female athletes from the Arab world, a photo exhibition called “Hey-Ya (Let’s Go!): Arab Women in Sport,” has opened in London.

Brigitte Lacombe took all the photographs in the exhibition. “It’s not a star-driven project,” she told CNN’s Zain Verjee. “It is our chance to see another face of the Arab Women – more modern and more engaged.”

Lacombe said she was astonished by the determination and the joy of all the young athletes who wanted to participate in the project. “They understood how important it was,” she said.

Commissioned by the Qatar Museums Authority, the photos show athletes from many countries and feature Olympic competitors and non-Olympians alike. Lacombe says she hopes her portraits will inspire other young girls, who might become sports stars one day.

“With the inclusion of the two athletes from Saudi Arabia in London, I think it’s about to turn the corner for women too,” Lacombe said. “A really important corner.”

The exhibition is showing at Sotheby’s, London, until August 11.