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Cycling champ aims to showcase the ‘real Israel’

  • JackSportAdams
As a new immigrant to Israel, Canadian-born Sylvan Adams has one mission – to show the world “the real Israel”.
by JACK MILNER | Mar 01, 2018

Adams was instrumental in bringing the Giro d’Italia to Israel, making this the first time the three-week, multiple-stage, annual bicycle race has started outside of Europe.

“The haters are out there,” said Adams in an exclusive interview with the SA Jewish Report on Tuesday. “They’re shooting at us although we are unarmed. We’re just trying to put on a cycling event.

“When 800 million viewers see Israel on their television sets around the world, they will see that the narrative does not match all the negative things they are hearing from the haters.”

Adams, a billionaire from Montreal, clearly loves Israel.

Adams began cycling competitively about 20 years ago. He has won the Canadian Championships six times and is a 15-time Quebec champion. He won four gold medals at two Pan-American meetings and clinched a total of five gold medals at the 2009 and 2013 Maccabiah Games. And in November 2015, he won the World Masters Championship in Manchester, England.

Adams has assembled an impressive Israel Academy cycling team of 24 top riders from 17 countries, including the best five riders from Israel, and he is hoping that one of his imported stars will win one of the Giro d’Italia stages and finish in the top 10.

The riders will also wear new kits that will prominently display the Peres Centre for Peace and Innovation’s logo of a flying dove carrying an olive branch. Situated in Jaffa, the centre is an independent organisation founded in 1996 by Nobel Peace Laureate and former president of Israel, Shimon Peres. 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 Peres Centre will be promoted by a sports team.

The idea of getting the Giro d’Italia to Israel started as a “thinking-out-of-the-box idea” by Adams, the general manager of the Israel team. “From there we secured an introduction to the organisation which runs the Giro d’Italia and got to meet its chief executive.

“Most people thought it was a crazy idea until we brought the Giro officials over. After they travelled around the country, they soon learned that Israel was not the country portrayed in the media, but rather, a beautiful place with mixed cultures who have all come together.”

The Tour de France attracts the most live supporters of any sporting event in the world, “and the Giro is No 2”, said Adams.

“We expect there to be thousands of people along the route cheering the cyclists,” he added.

Asked whether that would create any security problems for the police and the army, Adams replied: Early on in the negotiations, I brought up the issue with the security chief of the tour. He replied that he had already discussed the issue with the Italian police, and they told him that the cyclists are safer in Israel than they are in Italy.

We have been assigned a crackerjack team to look after the event and we have no worries.”

What’s foremost in Adams’ mind is the positive spinoff that this event will have on Israel and the economy. “We will be bringing the world to Israel. After people see what the country is like on TV, it could double the number of visitors.

“The more non-Jewish tourists we can attract, the more we can combat organisations such as the BDS, as well as haters of Israel.

“The Giro d’Italia is a way to attract first-time visitors to Israel. We can reach them in a non-political way and let them see that we have a normal country. We believe it will bring about 45 000 tourists to the country, but it could be a lot more. Cycling is now the fastest-growing sport and the race attracts many spectators.”

The Giro d’Italia will start on Friday, May 4 with a time trial in Jerusalem.

Stage two will start in Haifa and comprises a 167km journey through to Tel Aviv

The third and final stage in Israel, on Sunday May 6, stretches 226km from Be’er Sheva to Eilat.

On Wednesday, a group of Italian cyclists arrived in Israel to test the route. Adams will not be out on the road with them. “It wasn’t a co-ordinated event. A group of Italian cyclists has been invited to Israel to ride in an event to promote the Giro d’Italia,” he explained.

Adams concluded by reiterating his goal: to have Israel exposed to the widest audience possible during the Giro“I am daring to dream, because it’s Israel, that for the first time ever, we get a billion TV viewers.”


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