The organisers of the Giro d’Italia, RCS Sport, have said they do not wish to enter into any discussion of political and human rights with regards to the Budapest Grande Partenza.
The first three stages of the 2022 Italian Grand Tour will be held in Hungary, where “homophobic and transphobic laws”, as described by Amnesty International, were passed in 2021.
The Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, who passed those laws, recently won a fourth general election to extend his premiership, which began in 2010. The gerrymandering and election rule changes that have taken place at this most recent vote saw a 200-strong monitoring team with United Nations observer status sent in, only the second time this has ever happened in an EU member state.
Following the election, the Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin was confident the two countries could continue their close relationship “despite the difficult international situation”.
Orbán has banned the transfer of arms to Ukraine, which shares a border with Hungary, and the Prime Minister has also described Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy as an “opponent”.
This is the backdrop against which the beginning of the 2022 Giro d’Italia will be set.
“Given that Viktor Orban is an ally of Putin, and also that Hungary in the past few years has passed anti-gay and anti-trans legislation, what would be your message to gay, trans and Ukrainian people about how they can enjoy the start of this Giro d’Italia in Hungary?” CyclingTips asked at a roundtable interview with RCS Sport’s managing director, Paolo Bellino.
“I think that I would like to be honest,” Bellino began, promisingly. “To go out [to Hungary] and to not take into consideration politics or other things.”
“I think us as RCS Sport, us as the Giro d’Italia, we guarantee to all of the people, in general, the possibility of having an incredible event and an incredible time with us. So I have no barrier, I think that our intention is to create an incredible event, with an Italian style of course, with all of the best riders in the world, competing and giving the opportunity of a great party. “
“I do not…I’m not entering in any political or other situation, because if I…because if the sport…I mean, I’m a sport organiser,” Bellino continued. “I think sport is the only one moment in our lives and for society where everybody is free to demonstrate their capability, their passion, there are no barriers. And I would like that for the Giro also in Budapest that we can do the same thing.”
“I would like to follow up on that question,” another reporter chimed in. “Like last year you probably remember the whole thing in the European Championships with the rainbow rides going on, is there any concern in the organisation that this thing might pop up again. So maybe is there any concern for political issues being raised?”
“I think on this one we’re going to have to cut because Paolo’s kind of already answered this question,” the PR spokesperson running the call interrupted. “If we could move on to another question, more about the Giro.”
A pause, and then a question about RCS Sport’s intention to improve its offering of women’s races.
“Thank you very much for your question,” Bellino responded to the change in topic.
There is no doubt the stunning and historical city of Budapest will provide a “great party” party to kick off the 2022 Giro d’Italia. But if you’re gay, trans, or Ukrainian, you might not find your name on the invite list.