Oggi è il 20/06/2019 | 25856 articoli online

Jerusalem Start Announced for 101st Giro

The 100th Giro d’Italia delighted Italian cycling fans earlier this year with an all-Italy route, starting in Sardinia and Sicily, then criss-crossing the country from Reggio Calabria to Milan. For 2018, however, race organisers have opted to extend the Grand Tour trend of foreign starts, in a decision that is already leading to political arguments.

The Tour de France started outside France as a novelty for the first time in 1954, when the race began in Amsterdam, but it took 11 years to catch on in Italy. Since the 1965 San Marino start, however, the Giro has begun outside Italy on 12 occasions. Since 2010, the Giro start has been hosted by the Netherlands twice, as well as Denmark and Northern Ireland.

The increasing frequency of the trend, mirrored in the Tour and the Vuelta a Espana, allows other countries with a solid core of cycling fans to experience Grand Tour racing close-up, while providing a business and publicity boost to the local tourism industry. In return, the race receives a boost in funding.

The 2018 race will have its 13th start on foreign soil, and the first Opening Stage of a Grand Tour outside Europe, with a 10.1km individual time trial in Jerusalem on 4 May. Stages 2 and 3, both flat, are also planned to showcase Israel’s tourist hot spots, before the race returns to Italy.

Pro-Palestinian Activists Call ‘Sports-wash’

Jerusalem’s Giro start, reported to cost 17-million Euros, has been funded by two wealthy Israeli businessmen, whose aim is to show cycling enthusiasts and online sports betting fans the ‘normal Israel’ behind the news headlines.

‘Normal Israel’ is a phrase coined by one of the backers, property billionaire Sylvan Adams. The 58-year-old emigrated from Canada to Israel in 2016, and he’s also financing Israel’s first velodrome, set to open in Tel Aviv next May. He wants the Giro start in Jerusalem to show the world that ‘conflict and terrorism’ is a ‘very small part’ of Israeli life.

Somewhat naively, Giro director Marco Vegni claimed that any difficulties around the decision were ‘logistical’ rather than ‘political’, and said that as Israel was trying to change how it was ‘perceived’, it might be time to stop talking about ‘political questions’. Organisers and politicians in both Italy and Israel are sticking to a ‘sport, not politics’ line, but a backlash has already begun. Just like gaming and the mobile slots Canada has to offer have often come under fire by various government organisations and the public, so too will the race, but it will still run- or in this case, peddled.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement has called the move ‘sports-washing’ of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel sees it as a ‘reward’ for ‘decades-long human rights abuses’.

So far, reactions from cycling teams and top cyclists have been either positive or non-committal, but a sustained campaign by BDS and others is likely to continue until May next year. Whether or not their social media hashtag #RelocateTheRace has any effect on cycling enthusiasts, or the two prominent Muslim-funded teams in the Giro, UAE-Emirates


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