The Giro D’Italia’s Big Start in Jerusalem. (Yonatan SIndel/Flash90)

The Palestinian Olympic Committee harshly criticized the UAE and Bahrain for taking part in the opening of the Giro d’Italia cycling competition in Israel.


The Palestinian Olympic Committee issued a scathing statement against the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain for taking part in the opening races of the Giro d’Italia cycling competition last weekend, which took place in Israel.

The 101-year-old Giro d’Italia is one of the world’s highest-profile annual bicycle races and the largest international sporting event ever to take place in Israel.

The 2018 Giro began with a 10-kilometer time trial in Jerusalem on Friday, followed by a 167-kilometer stage from Haifa to Tel Aviv and a third stage on Sunday, taking riders 220 kilometers from the Upper Negev city of Beersheva all the way down to the port city of Eilat. The racers then made their way to Sicily for the next leg of the race.

In a published statement, the Palestinian Olympic Committee called the participation of Bahrain and United Arab Emirates in the race “a stab in the back to the great sacrifices made by the Palestinian people … and a free service for the occupation.” Neither of the teams responded to the attack.

The presence of the Gulf states’ teams in the cycling race  broke a boycott of Israel in place since 1948.

Though UAE and Bahrain both sent eight-men teams, none of the participants were Bahraini or Emirati citizens. However, both teams wore jerseys emblazoned with the countries’ national colors and the brand names of the sponsors: Bahrain Petroleum and the state-owned Emirates Airlines.

Malak Hassan, founder of the 3,000-member Cycling Palestine club, told Reuters that “the UAE and Bahrain know a lot about our cause, and there was no need for us to explain to them why they shouldn’t take part.”