Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

It’s not a cliché: the Giro d’Italia showed how sport can break down barriers

200 of the world’s top cyclists rode through Israel for the opening section of the Giro d’Italia last week and close to a billion people worldwide watched

    Hour after hour last weekend, television stations around the world screened footage from Israel. For once, much of it had nothing to do with terror, geopolitics or the conflict — instead viewers were watching the wheels go round and round.

    As nearly 200 of the world’s top cyclists rode through Israel for the opening section of the Giro d’Italia and close to a billion people worldwide watched, Israelis suddenly discovered just how much interest there is in cycling internationally.

    Bike fever has begun, with sales in cycling shops rocketing.

    What is more, it has got the public thinking about the power of sport to showcase their country.

    Until now, if you asked Israelis about big sporting events here, they would talk about the Maccabiah Games: huge, a source of great pride, but a mostly Jewish event that does not showcase Israel to the world.

    By contrast, the Giro got people everywhere tuning in to Israel.

    Israel has been making steady efforts in recent years to bring in tourists for sporting and recreational events, like the big marathons that talk place in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, triathlons and dance festivals.

    The Giro took this to a whole new level and opened people up to a whole new range of possibilities.

    It must be why Tourism Minister Yariv Levin decided during the race to “exploit the tremendous exposure and interest in Israel as a result of the race” and, his office said, “expand the various campaigns currently live in countries around the world, with an emphasis on Europe.”

    The Giro also demonstrated that talk of sport breaking down barriers between nations is not just a cliché. Teams from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain took part, breaking a longstanding taboo.

    Some will downplay this, saying that the people representing the teams were not natives of those places, but they were still wearing national colours and representing the countries.

    It was certainly a blow to the idea of an Arab boycott of Israel.

    Amid all of this, there was a political lesson: Charedi politicians did not fight against the Giro, even though one of the three days was Shabbat, and it required huge numbers of Jewish Israelis to work.

    There were almost certainly a larger number of people working on Shabbat than there have been as maintenance workers on the railways, an issue which caused a row in the coalition last year.

    This underscored the fact that Charedi politicians are carefully weighing which battles to pick, and that if other politicians invest the time and energy in entering dialogue with them, clashes can be avoided.

    The Giro also reminded Israelis how often it is the citizens with passion, as opposed to to the politicians and bureaucrats, who bring great things to Israel.

    Having the race begin in Israel was the vision and dream of one man, the Canadian-Israeli Sylvan Adams.

    “I am a little emotional at this moment,” he said as the race began, calling it his “proudest moment” since making aliyah.

Israel

Blame game begins over teenager flood tragedy

Nathan Jeffay

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Blame game begins over teenager flood tragedy
News Features

The Knesset - explained.

Nathan Jeffay

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

The Knesset - explained.
Comment

Mike Pence's speech was a Sermon on the Mount

Nathan Jeffay

Friday, January 26, 2018

Mike Pence's speech was a Sermon on the Mount
News Features

Britain steps into the breach

Nathan Jeffay

Monday, April 16, 2018

Britain steps into the breach
Israel

Israel slams Poland's Holocaust bill

Nathan Jeffay

Friday, February 2, 2018

Israel slams Poland's Holocaust bill
World

We must embrace diaspora, says student chief

Nathan Jeffay

Friday, January 5, 2018

We must embrace diaspora, says student chief
Israel

Debate rages over journalist Yasser Murtaja's death in Gaza

Nathan Jeffay

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Debate rages over journalist Yasser Murtaja's death in Gaza
Israel

Million-strong Israeli Charedim seek a change

Nathan Jeffay

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Million-strong Israeli Charedim seek a change
World

Saudi chess ban on Israelis 'must never happen again'

Lee Harpin

Nathan Jeffay

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Saudi chess ban on Israelis 'must never happen again'