The internationally popular annual Giro d'Italia cycling race will next year begin in Israel and end at the Vatican, marking the first time any leg of the sport's three Grand Tours will take place outside of Europe.
Amid speculation that the race will begin with a time trial in the Old City of Jerusalem, organisers said yesterday that details of the exact route of the three stages to be held in Israel will be announced next week.
The theme of the race will be peace and reconciliation.
More than 175 of the world's best cyclists will travel to Israel to begin the race, one of cycling's top three stage races along with the Tour de France and the Spanish Vuelta a España.
The event will be the biggest sporting event ever held in Israel, and is expected to draw tens of thousands of tourists to the country, AP reported.
'This is a hugely exciting moment for cycling and for Israel,' said Daniel Benaim, the chief executive and owner of Comtec Group, the Giro's Israeli production company. 'An event of this magnitude is something that the country will always remember.'
A delegation from the Giro d'Italia is currently in Israel finalising locations for the opening stages.
Cyclingnews.com has reported that the opening stage is likely to be a time trial in Old Jerusalem.
The website has also said that the Israeli government will contribute towards running costs and also will be responsible for security, with the event expected to be the biggest security operation in Israel's history.