Aerial view of Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
Aerial view of Riyadh, Saudi ArabiaiStock

Israeli triathlete Shachar Sagiv has become the first Israeli athlete to compete in Saudi Arabia, the Israeli Olympic Committee said Sunday, according to the AFP news agency.

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 normalization 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.

Sagiv's participation in the competition comes amid speculation about future bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Last week, Samer Haj-Yehia, chairman of Israel’s Bank Leumi, made a historic appearance at a Saudi investor forum and hailed "amazing" opportunities in the kingdom.

Israel has been for years rumored to have behind-the-scenes ties with Saudi Arabia, but the Saudis have vehemently denied those rumors.

Saudi Arabia announced in July that the Kingdom’s airspace will be opened for all air carriers, including Israeli ones.

US President Joe Biden, during a visit to Riyadh, later announced two agreements made with Saudi Arabia which are widely considered to be significant steps on the path toward normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian officials have repeatedly said that a Palestinian state with eastern Jerusalem as its capital is a prerequisite for Saudi Arabia normalizing ties with Israel.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, last month welcomed Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s support for the two-state solution during his speech at the UN General Assembly, but also said it needs to be translated into actions.