Triathlete Shachar Sagiv has become the first Israeli athlete to compete in Saudi Arabia, the Israeli Olympic Committee said Sunday, in the latest sign of growing informal ties between the former enemies.
Olympic committee head Yael Arad called Sagiv’s presence at the Saudi NEOM leg of the Super League Triathlon on Saturday “a very significant breakthrough”.
“In the past year we’ve seen many Arab states come to terms with the fact that hosting an international tournament means hosting Israelis,” she said in a statement.
“This is a growing trend and the true force in normalisation between nations, and especially people,” Arad added.
A Saudi official did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Sagiv, 28, was eliminated from the race after falling in a bike ride, failing to meet his goal of improving his rank, his coach Lior Cohen wrote on Facebook.
“Shachar came to make professional history and not only diplomatic history,” Cohen added.
Sagiv’s participation comes amid speculation about future bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, after the Gulf kingdom opened its airspace to Israeli planes in July and recently allowed an Israeli businessman into its borders.
Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and did not join the 2020 US-brokered Abraham Accords that saw the Jewish state establish ties with two of the kingdom’s neighbours, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Riyadh has repeatedly said it would stick to the decades-old Arab League position of not establishing official ties with Israel until the conflict with the Palestinians is resolved.