London Olympics 2012 filled with firsts for women

Sarah Attar of Saudi Arabia competes in the Women's 800m Round 1 Heats on Day 12 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 8, 2012, in London, England.
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

(CBS News) LONDON - Most runners make history for how fast they go. Sarah Attar had the entire stadium cheering her on even though she was dead last in her race. It didn't matter.

Attar was making a different kind of history -- the first Saudi Arabian woman ever to be allowed by her country to run in the Olympics. She may have grown up in California, but she knew what it meant.

"This is just an amazing thing. For women in Saudi Arabia, I think it can be inspiring, you know, to not give up on your dreams because it can and will come true," Attar said.

Another Saudi woman, Wodjan Shaherkani, almost didn't get to compete until judo authorities allowed her to wear her headscarf. She lost in less than 90 seconds. What it means back in Saudi Arabia, where girls aren't even allowed to take part in school sports, is another matter.

The Saudis may be cultural light-years away from the U.S. beach volleyball players who met in the final, but these have become the women's emancipation games.

It's the first time every country has women on its team.

It's a presence with a punch; the first time women's boxing has been included.

The pride of Flint, Mich., 17-year-old Claressa Shields and her gold medal tonight may produce a new generation of million dollar babies. Shields said she believes she's done something for both herself and women's boxing.

"I don't think I box like a girl," Shields said.

Including women athletes from Saudi Arabia from Qatar and from Brunei for the first time was the result of a new sport: Olympic arm twisting. Saudi resistance was only broken when the IOC threatened to bar the whole team unless women were included.

Like Sarah Attar's run, progress is slow. But like her, the hope is they'll get there in the end.