AFP / File / THOMAS COEX
The Giro d’Italia cycling tour has already gone into trouble long before the first pedal is due to be pushed on May 4, first by the city of “west Jerusalem” due to conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims over the Holy Land
The race for the Giro d’Italia’s pink jersey is overshadowed by a political rumpus over the 2018 edition of Jerusalem, with Israeli protests and US diplomatic policy threatening carnage. The cycling Grand Tour has already gone into trouble long before the first pedal is due to be on May 4, first by the city of “Jerusalem” rather than Jerusalem, due to conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims over the Holy Land.
President Donald Trump’s recognition on Wednesday of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while pledging to the move from the United States to Tel Aviv, provoking a torrent of protest from Middle East and Muslim countries as Jordan, Iran and Turkey, both more Palestinian factions. Giro d’Italia race director Mauro Vegni said in September that the first three days of the 101st edition would be a time trial in Jerusalem followed by two sprint stages ending in Tel Aviv and Eilat, before the race returns to Italy for the final 18 stages . It will be the first time of cycling of the Grand Tours – the others being the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana – start outside Europe and fans were thrilled. Gino Bartoli, a much-loved triple Giro winner who was recognized in 2013 as a “Righteous Among the Nations” – Someone who had helped shield Jews from the Nazis in the Second World War. “It’s a great privilege to host such an important sporting event and we invite all of you to come to Israel,” the country’s sports minister Miri Regev said when the plan was first unveiled in September. – ‘Spectacular’ – His tourism colleague Yariv Levin was no pleased, boasting that the race for the pink jersey in Israel would “show its spectacular landscapes to millions of spectators in nearly 200 countries”. That was before the “west Jerusalem” saga, however. Most international opinion, which does not recognize Israel’s claim to the entire city – including the occupied east – as its capital. Aimed at Israel’s threat to pull the plug unless organizers at the RCS, which they duly did. According to the Jerusalem Post, RCS Sport is getting four million euros ($ 4.7 million) from Israel for hosting rights. Putting one diplomatic fire, however, read another. The Palestinians promptly accused the Giro of being “an accomplice to the Israeli military occupation and its significant violations of international law”. Vegni pleaded with the Palestinians to leave politics out of it, admitting he feared the race could attract protesters. Italy insists next year’s Giro will go down in history on its own merit, as a race from Jerusalem to Rome starring Chris Froome, the three-time British Tour de France champion who hopes to win the first Tour-Giro double in two decades.
AFP / File / THOMAS COEX