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Sylvan Adams - the man behind Israel's biggest sports spectacular

Israel is preparing to stage the biggest  sporting event in its history — and it is all due to the efforts of one man. By pedalling the love of his favourite sport, Canadian immigrant. Sylvan Adams  has had  a major impact on Israel since coming to live in Tel Aviv two years ago with his London-born wife, Margaret.

    And now, real-estate tycoon Adams is honorary president of “Big Start Israel” after persuading the organisers of next May’s Giro d’Italia to bring the first three legs to the country. The race is one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, the others are the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana.

    An estimated one billion TV viewers will watch 176 cyclists, including Tour de France winner Chris Froome, enter the prologue in Jerusalem in order to determine the race leader for the first stage the next day – starting in Tel Aviv, and heading North. The next stage is Beersheva to Eilat in a circuit taking place over three days.

    “My aim in getting the organisers to hold the event in Israel was two-fold,” said Adams, who is co-owner of the Israel Cycling Academy.

    “I want to show people how normal Israel is — that it is a modern, western, pluralistic and free nation where everyone gets along.  I also want to use the tournament as a springboard to develop the sport in Israel and eventually produce Israeli champions.”

    Adams, one of the three-man Board of Directors, has assembled an impressive Israel Academy cycling team of 24 top riders from 17 countries, including the best five riders from Israel, and he expects one of his imported stars to win one of the stages and finish in the top 10 of next year’s Giro d’Italia.

    The riders will also wear new kits from celebrated Italian manufacturer Nalini. The shoulders and sleeves of the updated jerseys prominently display the Peres Centre’s logo of a flying dove carrying an olive branch. Each rider will carry the title of Peace Ambassador on the back of his jersey alongside his name and national flag.

    It will be the first time a professional team will carry an outright message of peace on their jerseys and the first time that the world-renowned Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation will be promoted by a sports team. Through Argentinian-Jewish intermediaries, Adams even received an audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican.

    “I invited him to come to Jerusalem for the start of the Giro," remarked Adams. "He said he would like to. Of course he has a very busy schedule, but we are now working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the protocols to see if we can make it a diplomatic reality.

    “The Giro d’Italia usually finishes in Milan but in 2018 it will end in Rome, so symbolically the riders will cycle from Jerusalem to Rome.”

    Over the past month, Adams also defused a potentially delicate diplomatic situation when the Giro d’Italia organisers announced the race would start in west Jerusalem.
    “I convinced them there is no such place and they changed it to Jerusalem,” said Adams.

    Originally from Montreal, Adams is an avid amateur cyclist. He is a six-time Canadian Masters champion, a former World Masters Points race champion for age 55-59 and he has won five Maccabiah gold medals.

    His financial assistance to Israeli cycling pre-dates his immigration to the country and also includes the construction of a state-of-the-art velodrome in Tel Aviv, which will be completed next year.

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