Giro d'Italia race's 'West Jerusalem' leg raises ire
Organizers of 2018 Giro d'Italia cycling competition cause backlash after publishing that first leg of the race will take place in 'West Jerusalem,' angering right-wing government officials—among them Culture and Sports Min. Regev, Tourism Min. Levin, who are in charge of hosting competition.
The official launch of the 2018 Giro d'Italia bicycle race Wednesday evening was especially festive with all 21 legs of the competition presented, but it is very possible that the organizers of the competition caused an unintended diplomatic incident; On the official website of the race, the first section was written astaking place in "West Jerusalem"—supposedly categorizing it as separate from the State of Israel.
Minister of Culture and Sports Miri Regev and Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin, who are in charge of hosting the competition, commented that "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."
"In Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, there is no East and West. There is only one united Jerusalem," Ministers Regev and Levin added, noting that the publication "violates the agreement made with the Israeli government" by the organizers of the race organizers.
It was reported earlier Wednesday that Olympic medalist Chris Froome, the reigning Tour de France champion, will participate in the 2018 Giro d'Italia bicycle race scheduled to take place in Israel, thanks to a € 2 million payment made by Israel.
According to reports by several cycling news websites such as Cycling Weekly, in addition to Israel's € 10 million investment to bring the event out of Europe for the first time, Froome himself will receive an additional € 2 million from the state to take part in one of the world's three largest cycling competitions.
He will attempt to become the first rider to claim the Giro d'Italia/Tour de France double for 20 years.
"It's a unique situation for me, having won the Tour (de France) and Vuelta (a España) and now having the opportunity to go to the Giro and attempt to win a third consecutive Grand Tour," Froome said.
"It's really exciting to be able to take on a new challenge, to do something that perhaps people wouldn't expect and mix it up. It's a whole new motivation for me to see if I can pull off something special next year."
Sources involved in the Israeli production of the Giro tournament denied the report, telling Ynet that "according to the agreement, Israel is not allowed to interfere in the selection of the groups and athletes participating in it, apart from the production and reimbursement of expenses of € 150,000 per group paid to the riders who came to the press conference in Israel."
"We would be happy if an athlete of Froome's caliber would participate in the race," they added.
175 of the world's best cyclists will participate in the 2018 Giro d'Italia, to be launched May 4.
The tournament, which will feature eight summit finishes and brutal climbing days in the final week, promises a fierce battle for the general classification with Froome up against twice former winner Vincenzo Nibali and 2017 champion Tom Dumoulin.
The event is expected to draw thousands of tourists to the country, provide a steady flow of income and to give Israel an economic boost. In addition, hundreds of millions of viewers will follow the three days of the Israeli leg, broadcast live to their homes.