From dreaming to achieving objectives

Sylvan Adams has a lot of ideas on his mind these days

 SYLVAN ADAMS at his eponymous National Velodrome, in Tel Aviv.  (photo credit: ALONI MOR)
SYLVAN ADAMS at his eponymous National Velodrome, in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: ALONI MOR)

‘My projects are not dreams,” says Sylvan Adams. “I don’t actually sleep enough to dream. I create objectives, and then I work diligently toward achieving those objectives.” 

Adams’s comment about slumber notwithstanding, the tanned and energetic Adams, known as Israel’s “self-appointed ambassador-at-large,” recently outlined some of his new objectives designed to promote Israel through sports, music and culture.

Since making aliyah from Canada six years ago, Adams has made quite a splash, arranging Israel’s hosting of the first three stages of the Giro d’Italia Grand Tour bicycle race in 2018, bringing Madonna to perform at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv in 2019, and co-founding the Israel – Premier Tech professional cycling team, which is the first team from Israel to compete at the highest level of its sport, including in cycling’s most famous race, the Tour de France. 

WITH PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog and the Israeli cycling team. (Credit: Noa Arnon) WITH PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog and the Israeli cycling team. (Credit: Noa Arnon)

While those events showcased Israel to a large part of the world, Adams’s latest audacious idea – if it comes to fruition – is guaranteed to gain the Holy Land even more fame and attention. “My idea,” says Adams almost matter-of-factly, is to host the World Cup in Israel in 2030, together with several of our regional neighbors.” For Jerusalem Post readers who may be unaware, the FIFA World Cup is the most prestigious soccer tournament globally and the most widely viewed single sporting event in the world, held every four years. The 2022 World Cup will be held in Qatar, and the 2026 World Cup will be shared by three countries – the US, Canada and Mexico. 

“The next open date is 2030,” says Adams. “My idea is to host it in the region, together with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.” Adams says that he has reached out to the Saudis and hopes to meet with the country’s sports minister within the next several months and begin exploring the idea of jointly hosting the 2030 World Cup. “Four billion people will watch the World Cup,” he says. “By the time 2030 rolls around, it may be 5 billion.” 

For Adams, placing Israel on the world stage for the single most popular sporting event would be quite a feather in his cap. Adams first broached the idea to FIFA President Gianni Infantino, who indicated that he would support the proposal. 

Adams realizes that his dream – or objective – of holding the World Cup in Israel has a long way to go, but he points out that even if it were not to come to fruition, the sight of the four countries working together for such a bid would be a significant accomplishment. “Working on a bid with our neighbors, especially with the Saudis, would be a remarkable and groundbreaking activity, which by itself would be a large step forward toward peaceful relations in the region.”

While his nascent hopes of Israel hosting the World Cup have a way to go, Adams is pleased that another project he has promoted – the first-ever Middle Eastern Regional Ironman Championship – has officially been announced and will take place in Tiberias on November 25, 2022. The Ironman is the marquee brand of the sport of triathlon, consisting of a 3.86-km. (2.4-mile) swim, a 180.25-km. (112-mile) bicycle ride and a marathon 42.20-km. (26.22-mile) run. Participants from many countries in the region will come to Israel to compete, says Adams. 

“This is sport diplomacy – cultural and sporting outreach to our neighboring countries,” he says. “Being part of this region hosting a regional championship is a way of cementing the Abraham Accords, and it is a way of creating new openings to other countries in the region that haven’t yet signed peace agreements like Oman, Kuwait and Qatar. If they are sending their competitors to Israel for the regional Ironman Championship, it is a step in the right direction, getting them to know us better, building bridges and creating new friendships between people of the region.”

Adams says that the race will accommodate more than 6,000 athletes, who will compete in different categories and age groups. He himself is planning on competing in the bicycle race portion of the competition as part of a composite team. “My true preference,” he smiles, “is to participate.”

Pausing for a moment to reflect on the impact of holding major international events in Israel, Adams points out that his activities are intended to accomplish multiple goals. “I think that as my activities project Israel on the world stage, this is a kind of antidote to the poison that is disseminated by the Israel-haters.” 

Adams acknowledges that while most opponents of Israel will never change their minds, those who are on the fence will be positively impacted. “When we show Israel’s good face around the world with good sportsmanship and bringing a message of peace, tolerance and diversity, it is an antidote not to the haters, but to the poison that is being absorbed by people that I call the ‘silent majority’ – the apolitical people, regular sports fans, whose impressions of Israel and the Jews are influenced by the haters and their media abettors. 

“By bringing sportsmanship, showing the Israeli flag around the world and presenting our good nature and peaceful intentions, we are changing a lot of minds.”

Adams will be participating in the Jerusalem Post London Conference, which will be held on March 31 at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, and will be honored at the conference with the Sports Star Award for his efforts in fighting hate through innovation in sports. The conference itself will focus on efforts to combat antisemitism globally and will feature leading speakers and dignitaries from Israel, the UK and around the world. 

One of the few Israelis invited to the signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington in September 2020, Adams viewed the invitation as an endorsement of his people-to-people style of creating friendship between nations, and hopes that the momentum generated by the Abraham Accords will continue between the countries of the region. 

“What is beautiful about the Abraham Accords,” says Adams, “is that unlike our agreements with Egypt and Jordan, which were top-down political agreements, with no buy-in underneath, this has a genuine appetite for a warm peace with our neighbors, and it is also bringing Egypt and Jordan into warmer relations with us by having cultural, sporting, business and tourism exchanges. All kinds of wonderful things are happening with Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and, to a lesser degree, Sudan.”

Promoting Israel through sports is just one of the ways that Sylvan Adams engages in tikkun olam, or repairing the world. 

Another of his major investments in Israeli society is the Sylvan Adams Children’s Hospital at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon, and the Save a Child’s Heart program, which offers life-saving heart surgery to Israeli and Palestinian children at Wolfson, as well as mobile teams operating on children in Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Adams relates that he recently hosted Bahrain’s ambassador to Israel at Wolfson to see the Save a Child’s Heart program. 

WITH ‘SAVE a Child’s Heart’ patients in Rwanda. (Credit: Sjors Beukeboom) WITH ‘SAVE a Child’s Heart’ patients in Rwanda. (Credit: Sjors Beukeboom)

“We had children there from many Muslim countries, and he saw how open and tolerant we are and generous toward our neighbors. He was impressed with our Arabic-speaking nurses and doctors. This is an example of how Israel can be a leader to cement neighborly relations in the region.”

As a final illustration of the benefits that can accrue through sports and diplomacy, Adams mentions that Egypt was scheduled to host the World Junior Track Cycling Championship in 2020. The event was postponed because of the pandemic. The hosting rights for the 2021 Championship were held by Israel, and the events were scheduled to be in Tel Aviv at the Sylvan Adams National Velodrome.

“When our Egyptian neighbors asked if we would mind deferring our hosting to 2022 and allowing them to host the 2021 championship,” says Adams, “my answer was ‘Certainly, we will be good neighbors and do it. All I ask is that our team receive a friendly welcome when we come to Cairo in 2021,’ which they did. Our athletes had a wonderful time riding with the Saudis and the Egyptians. This year, we will host the Egyptian athletes and athletes from all over the world in Tel Aviv.” 

Adams says that using sports as diplomacy can break down barriers and build new relationships worldwide. While tourism and business ties are important, there is something about sports, he notes, that hits people in a visceral way. “Sports breaks down barriers better than anything else,” he says. 

Returning to the beginning of our conversation, Sylvan Adams concludes, “Having a joint World Cup between Israel, Egypt, the UAE and the Saudis would have been considered unthinkable just a short time ago. Now it has such a logical ring to it. I know this stuff works, so let’s keep it going.”

This article was written in cooperation with Sylvan Adams.