An Israeli cycling team will be taking part in this week’s UAE Tour event for the first time despite there being no formal diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Known as Start-Up Nation, the Israeli team is owned by Canadian-Israeli philanthropist Sylvan Adams and Israeli businessman Ron Baron.
Its team rider competing in the Middle East’s premier cycling race, Rudy Barbier, came third yesterday during the sprint on the opening stage of the UAE Tour.
The UAE Tour continues today with the 168-kilometre second stage to Hatta Dam and will end on Saturday in Abu Dhabi.
“For us being in an Arab country, competing as an Israeli team with our Israel Start-Up Nation and with the word ‘Israel’ emblazoned on the front and back of the jersey in big letters, with Israel as our identity – for us this is a really important race on the calendar”, Adams told the Jerusalem Post.
“It’s a historic occasion that an Israeli team will be racing in an Arab country – the first time ever – and we hope to make a diplomatic statement that Israel is a normal country, and normalise relations.”
Throughout recent years, the UAE along with other Gulf Arab states, have been undergoing an increase in relations with Israel, raising concerns among many that they are slowly normalising ties with the Jewish state and side-lining the struggle against the continued occupation of Palestinian territories.
Israel Start-Up Nation is one of the 19 professional teams participating in this year’s competition – the Middle East’s largest professional cycling event, being the only one that takes place in the region as a part of the World Tour.
According to the Middle East Transparent, the Israeli team will be accommodated with increased security throughout their participation in the week-long event.
During the following stages, the race will traverse the deserts and streets of all seven Emirates, before finishing in central Abu Dhabi.