Two Saudi women will compete in the London 2012 Games, said the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Sarah Attar (photo, from bbc.co.uk) will compete in the 800m and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrakhani in the judo competition above 78kg.
The ban on women participating in the Games was lifted by the Saudi authorities last month.
Many Saudi religious conservatives fiercely oppose the public participation of women in sport.
On Wednesday IOC President Jacques Rogge described the news as “very important”.
In a statement he said : “I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come to fruition.”
“You know, it’s a human right. Women have the right to practice sport, they want to practice, they love sport; they are attracted to sport. And we must make sure that barriers are broken down.”
Speaking from her training base in San Diego, California, 17-year-old Sarah Attar said : “It is such a huge honor and I hope that it can really make some big strides over there to get more involved in sport.”
She also said that she knows women and girls in the kingdom will be watching her in London.
“I definitely think that my participation in these Olympic Games can increase women’s participation in sports in general,” she explained. “I can only hope for the best for them and that we can really get some good strides going for women in the Olympics further,” she added.
This announcement means that for the first time in the history of the Games at least one woman athlete will be included in every national Olympic team, as women from Qatar and Brunei are also due to attend for the first time.
Qatar has entered athletes into the swimming (Nada Arkaji), athletics (Noor al-Malki), table tennis (Aya Magdy) and shooting (Bahiya al-Hamad), while Brunei’s Maziah Mahusin will participate in the athletics.
Also set to carry the Qatari flag at the opening ceremony, Bahiya al-Hamad said it was a “truly historic moment”.
The inclusion of Saudi women is a step forward, said the New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“It’s an important precedent that will create space for women to get rights, and it will be hard for Saudi hardliners to roll back”, the organisation’s Minky Worden said.
In Saudi Arabia there is almost no public tradition of women participating in sport, which made it difficult for officials to find athletes who could meet the minimum criteria for competing.
And female competitors will have to dress in such a way as “to preserve their dignity”, officials said, which probably means that women will wear loose-fitting garments and a scarf covering the hair but not the face.
Women in Saudi Arabia face several restrictions such as having to cover from head to toe in public, needing authorisation from a male guardian to travel, having restricted access to jobs due to strict rules of segregation or being banned from driving.