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There goes the floor

Hannibal ad portas!
“Hannibal is at the gates!”

Hannibal managed to lead his Carthaginian army over the Alps and into Italy to take the war directly to the Roman Republic, bypassing Roman and allied land garrisons and Roman naval dominance. Yet he could save only half of his famous elephants.

Hannibal some of his war elephants by constructing a passable track down the precipice; for, by no other route could the army proceed. It was necessary to cut through rock, a problem they solved by the ingenious application of heat and moisture; large trees were felled and lopped, and a huge pile of timber erected; this, with the opportune help of a strong wind, was set on fire, and when the rock was sufficiently heated the men’s rations of sour wine were flung upon it, to render it friable. They then got to work with picks on the heated rock, and opened a sort of zigzag track, to minimize the steepness of the descent, and were able, in consequence, to get the pack animals, and even the elephants, down it.

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Who would have thought that industrial action would be fought and won by some of the best paid sportsmen in the world in a bike race in the Alps. They did so not that far from where Hannibal took his 35 war elephants, a strategic tool to defeat the Romans in the Second Punic war. On 23 October 2020, riders in the Giro d’Italia refused to ride the 19th stage of the race because it was too far, cold and wet – reasonable occupational health and safety demands.

The owners of the race are RCS Sport which is a sport and media company that operates mainly in Italy in the sports sector, as part of RCS MediaGroup. The riders were represented by their union, Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA).

Race organisers (RCS) were forced to shorten the race to 124 kilometres down from 260 kms, the longest stage of the race from Morbegno near Switzerland to Asti (near Turin).

Sixteen of the eighteen teams in the race agreed to strike organised by their union, Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA). In response, Giro d’Italia race director, Mauro Vegni, has vowed that “someone will pay” after the peloton went on strike and refused to ride the opening 130km of stage 19.

The Giro, first organized in 1909 to increase sales of the newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport, is still owned by a subsidiary of that paper’s owner, RCS Sport. In 2018, RCS Sport negotiated a deal with a Canadian real estate billionaire and the apartheid state of Israel to run the first three stages of the Giro in occupied Palestine. Worst still, the race was to begin in Jerusalem, captured and annexed by Israeli troops during the six-day war in 1967.

The Cyclistes Professionnels Associés (CPA) claimed victory in the strike and said that the immune defences of the riders should not be put at any further risk (of contracting Covid 19).

The CPA is an international non-profit association of active pro riders established under Swiss law. All riders under a contract with a team (WorldTour, Pro Continental or Continental) are automatically members of the CPA, either individually or by means of their national association.

It was the 19th stage of the 2018 Giro that Chris Froome did the impossible and attacked the leaders of the race 80 kms out from the finish. He rode solo over two mountains and sprinted to the finish winning the race by about four minutes taking the pink maglia rosa and becoming the race leader.

In 2019 Israel Start up Nation bought Chris Froome. Israel has a long history of sportwashing its brutal occupation and annexation of Palestine. This strategy is also used in the arts and entertainment industries. Israel brought Eurovision Song contest to Tel Aviv in 2019 despite Palestinian BDS efforts to prevent it.

Sharaf Qutaifan of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel said: “Starting the Giro in Israel to all intents rewards Israel for its decades-long human rights abuses against the Palestinian people, including athletes.”

There should be a cycling boycott of Israel until Palestinians obtain the right of return to their homeland.

Ian Curr
25 October 2020

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