Prestigious cycling race removes offensive reference to ‘West Jerusalem’

Ministers Regev and Levin had threatened to cancel Israel’s hosting the prestigious race unless the reference indicating a divided capital was removed.

By: Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News

What a difference a day makes. The cycling world was in crisis mode after two Israeli ministers threatened to cancel Israeli participation in the prestigious Giro d’Italia after the competition website published ‘West’ Jerusalem as the location of the opening leg of the race.  By this afternoon, all involved breathed a sign of relief when the problem was solved.  The word ‘West’ has been removed, and planners told World Israel News (WIN) news that the threat of an Israeli pullout has been removed.

Israel was thrilled to have been chosen to host the opening three days of the 2018 Giro d’Italia, a  major accomplishment for sport in Israel.  It fact it’s the first time ever that organizers have allowed any stage of the race to take place outside of Europe. But organizers, perhaps unwittingly, caused the firestorm by inferring that the Israeli capital is divided between east and west, making a political reference to that denies the unity of the city.

Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin immediately took notice of what they considered to be a slight on the capital city of the State of Israel.  Levin threatened organizers, saying, “In the event that the publication on the site defining the starting point of the competition as ‘West Jerusalem’ is not changed, the government of Israel will not be involved in the event.” Regev said, “In Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, there is no East and West. There is only one united Jerusalem.” According to Levin the website statement “violates the agreement made with the Israeli government” by the  race organizers.

“Last night, we were all shocked, and frankly deeply offended as we watched the official presentation of the Giro d’Italia 2018 routes, when our capital city was referred to as “West Jerusalem,” said Sylvan Adams, honorary President of Giro d’Italia’s ‘Big Start Israel.’ “I made it clear to our Italian counterparts that this was totally unacceptable.   Just as there is no such city as West Rome or West Paris, neither is there a city named West Jerusalem. As a result of those conversations, the Giro d’Italia organizers have now removed all such erroneous references, and assured us that this will not be repeated.”

“A billion people will have the opportunity to view a large portion of our beautiful country, from Haifa to Eilat,” Adams said.

Remembering ‘Righteous’ Italian Cyclist

The Jerusalem leg opening the competition is only 9.7 kilometers in length. A highly technical route, with numerous bends and small ascents and descents, this leg is named after Gino Bartali, commemorating the Italian cyclist who was awarded the honor of ‘Righteous Among the Nations’ and whose name is engraved on the Wall of Honor in the Garden of the Righteous in the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem.

The second leg between Tel Aviv and Haifa covers 187km. with the finish on the flat seafront after 167km. The second stage is set to suit the sprinters.

The last stage in Israel between Beer Sheva to Eilat on the Red Sea includes a designated mountainous climb on the Ramon Crater (at 40km wide, the largest crater in the world), and also features a finish suitable for sprinters. Eilat will be the southernmost point touched by the Giro d’Italia in its history.

World’s 175 top cyclists participate

One hundred and seventy five of the top cyclists in the world will take part in the 2018 Giro d’Italia, which gets underway on May 4.    This year marks the 101st edition of the race.

The race includes eight summit finishes and brutal climbs and a total of 21 legs with the final 18 stages in Italy.  The event is likely to draw thousands of tourists to Israel and hundreds of millions will follow the race via live cast.

Among the top names expected to take part are 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin, former winner Vincenzo Nibali.  The biggest attraction is Olympic medalist Chris Fromme who will attempt to become the first rider in two decades to win the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia.

One of Israel’s top cyclists agreed to speak to WIN on condition that his name not be used.  He said,” I am a cyclist and not a politician, but I am happy that this problem has been solved.Getting the Giro in Israel is a major accomplishment and I cannot believe that Israel would consider canceling the event.  It’s too big a deal to do that.  The organizer emphasis peace and that’s the most important message.”