For the first time in its 101-year history, the second most important pro cycling race in the world, the Giro d’Italia, will be starting outside of Europe. You would think this would be hailed as an auspicious sign that traditional European-based pro cycling is becoming more inclusive, more international, more welcoming. Unfortunately, we have good news/bad news scenario…. The bad news is that the race will be starting in Jerusalem this Friday, May 4th. Yes, the Jerusalem that is the seat of the self-avowed Jewish state that is currently every Friday killing and wounding people in Gaza who have the temerity to protest their being held, against all international law, in an open air prison.
We can on the same Friday now look forward to the spectacle of the start of an international sporting event hosted by the same country that about 50 miles away is concurrently killing and wounding civilians in cold blood. Imagine if at the time of the Soweto uprising (protests led by South African black school children with at least 176 being killed) there was an international rugby event occurring.
And wait, there’s more! Undermining any pretense that sports are apolitical, RCS, the sport corporation running the Giro, made the casual mistake of saying the starting race will occur in “west Jerusalem.” Oopsy, whether intended or not, this caused a major dust up, the Israeli government wasn’t having it and insisted that the race would start in “Jerusalem”, per se, or Israeli government money would be withdrawn. (You see, for Israel, it’s only political – particularly trying to normalize its image as a “European” civilized country).
At this point, if you don’t know much about pro-cycling, the one thing you should know – it’s all about the money. Israel paid RCS to start the race in Israel. RCS and cycling’s governing body, the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale), were not going to forego something like 12 million dollars because of silly international law stuff, so united Jerusalem it is! So much for the sports-is-not-political canard/fig leaf. Stephanie Adams at PACBI (the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel) told Velonews that the race is little more than an effort by Israel to “whitewash (sports wash) its brutal military occupation and apartheid regime.”
To give you further insight into the “high” standards of the pro-cycling, this hot mess is made even worse by the fact that the king of pro cycling stage races, Chris Froome, is under a cloud for having tested positive last year for a performance-enhancing drug. His majesty will most likely be on the starting line in Jerusalem.
To recap, we have a deeply racist US supported settler colonial state in cahoots with a deeply corrupt international sporting federation (whose leading athlete/standard bearer is under suspicion of doping) to further their respective craven interests.
This sporting event, perhaps the biggest international event to ever occur in Israel, will be starting on the same day that large non-violent Palestinian protests will most likely be met with deadly force. Stay tuned, tomorrow will allow the world to focus on a festive pro cycling event set against cold-blooded state murder committed against a wholly incarcerated people. This train wreck of a day may actually yield some positives: The horror and impunity of Israeli behavior will be on offer for all the world to see, reporters will be everywhere and it may help ramp up BDS actions.
At this point, there have been protests across Europe and there may be more in store as the race proceeds, from Israel to Italy in three days’ time.
The second and third stages of the race are shown below. The first stage, at top, is a time trial in West Jerusalem.