Sylvan Adams: Giro D'Italia was the antidote to BDS

Sylvan Adams Photo: Reuters

"We had a billion first-time vistors to Israel via their television screens through the cycle race," Adams told the Globes Business Conference.

Israeli-Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, the man who brought the Giro D'Italia bicycle race to Israel, was interviewed today at the Globes Business Conference.

"Globes": How did you bring Giro D'Italia, this tremendous event, to Israel?

Adams: "I myself compete in bicycle races, and I'm knowledgeable about the sport. I have connections. I organized a meeting with the head of Giro D'Italia and suggested the idea to him. He laughed at my suggestion the first time. He didn't think I was serious, because the Giro D'Italia had never left Europe before in its 101 year history. He accepted my invitation to travel to Israel and saw our beautiful country, our geography, and our bicycle culture. He also saw that we were a modern and pluralistic country, and most importantly, a safe country. Unfortunately, we have an image that we have to combat all the time and work hard to simply prove that we're a normal country. When he saw I was serious, we made a deal. It's the first time that any of the three cycling Grand Tours (the others being the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana) left Europe - we made history."

What is the significance of this event?

"A billion people watched this event. They saw all of Israel, because the race takes place outdoors, unlike a soccer game in which all that you see is an enclosed stadium. We had a billion people who watched us without the typical journalism news portraying Israel as an unsafe place. Here we reached masses of people who are just sport fans who aren't interested in politics. We had a billion first-time vistors to Israel via their television screens."

What is it about bicycles that links people to this sport and makes them watch or do it themselves?

"What I expected was the massive television viewership, which we got. It's the second most popular sport in Europe after soccer, and I knew there would be hundreds of millions of viewers seeing our stunning country. Some Israelis told me that they had never seen some of these beautiful images of their country before. What I didn't expect was how massively and warmly Israelis embraced this event, which they instinctively knew would be showing the country to the entire world. In fact, just a week before the race most Israelis had never even heard of the Giro D'Italia. Nevertheless, about a million people left their homes to watch, including coming out to cheer the home team, the Israel Cycling Academy. Being on the world map filled me with pride."

You are planning to bring big sports events here - what have you got in store for us?

"The Giro provided proof of concept that bringing such events to Israel can reach ordinary people all over the world. It's the antidote to BDS in an unfiltered way reaching ordinary people, especially young people. The Giro gave us an opportunity to show these audiences the real Israel, the country that people don't know. What I want to do is create a fund backed by Israeli and Jewish philanthropists from all over the world, raise $100 million, and bring events here, such as the Eurovision, for example, or Formula 1. It can be a sports event, because sports fans don't typically care about politics. Big events can be brought here to show our country and change the impression of who we really are."

Adams immigrated to Israel in late 2015 and settled in Tel Aviv. He is the only Israeli signatory to "The Giving Pledge," which was started by Bill and Melinda Gates, together with Warren Buffett, to convince wealthy people to give away at east half of their wealth to charity.

When asked about "The Giving Pledge," he said, "The members are some of the world's wealthiest people, and currently include 168 members from all over the world, approximately half of whom are Jewish, including Mark Zuckerberg and many others. I have invited the founders, Bill and Melinda Gates to Israel for a recruitment dinner to try and persuade some wealthy Israelis to join. It's great to be a member of such a group. At my first event as a new pledger, Warren Buffett insisted on sitting next to me at dinner. He took out his wallet and showed me his gold membership card for McDonalds. He eats a burger every day for lunch, by the way. It was that kind of informal event. We learned a lot about each other, and that's a great thing."

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on December 20, 2018

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2018

Sylvan Adams Photo: Reuters
Sylvan Adams Photo: Reuters
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