In keeping with Islamic custom, women will be barred from wearing revealing track uniforms when they compete for the first time at an international meet in Doha, Qatar.
"There will be no bare midriffs, bra pieces or bikini briefs," said John Nohani, coordinator for the meet, which begins today.
In a compromise designed to satisfy Qatar's conservative Muslim population, female athletes have been asked to wear T-shirts and track suits for their events at Khalifa International Stadium.
"Most of them have been very understanding," Nohani said of the athletes' willingness to make allowances for Qatar's cultural and religious traditions.
Whatever they wear, however, the very participation of women in such a meet is a breakthrough. For the first time, women also will be allowed to watch a major sports event in Qatar.
"I can't stress how important this is to the development of women's sport in the Gulf region," said Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic track gold medal, the 400-meter hurdles in 1984.
"It is a historic moment for track and we must praise the efforts of the Qatar Athletics Federation. They have already done so much."
The International Amateur Athletics Federation, which has designated 1998 the Year of Women in Sport, approved the one-day event as a Grand Prix meet on condition that women be allowed to participate.