Israel’s athletes pumped for Maccabi’s return to Germany

The European Maccabi Games are held every four years, always two years after the Maccabiah in Israel. Prague hosted the first ever European Maccabi Games in 1929, followed by Antwerp a year later.

By JERUSALEM POST SPORTS STAFF
July 28, 2015 03:36
2 minute read.
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Israeli swimmer Amit Ivry reached the semifinals of the 50-meter breaststroke at the world short course swimming championships last night in Doha, Qatar, but came up short in her attempt to qualify for the final.. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The 14th European Maccabi Games will get under way in Berlin on Tuesday, with Israel sending 120 athletes, its largest ever delegation to the event.

Approximately 2,300 Jewish athletes from 36 countries will take part, cheered on by fans bused in from across the country by the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

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Athletes will compete in 19 sports until the closing ceremony on August 4, as well as a few exhibition games pitting Jewish athletes against German soccer and basketball stars. The sports venues, including Berlin’s Olympiastadion, will be open to all, free of charge and under heavy security.

Tuesday’s opening ceremony will feature remarks by German President Joachim Gauck and a concert featuring Matisyahu, Dana International and others, with the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Israel and Germany to also receive special recognition.

The European Maccabi Games are held every four years, always two years after the Maccabiah in Israel. Prague hosted the first ever European Maccabi Games in 1929, followed by Antwerp a year later.

After a 30-year hiatus, the Jewish games finally returned to European soil as Copenhagen hosted the 1959 competition.

The choice of the Vienna as the host city of 2011 was highly symbolic as it is the first time since World War II that Jewish athletes from all over Europe competed on the territory of the former German Reich.

The Israeli delegation left for Berlin on Monday and includes junior basketball and volleyball teams, as well as senior sides in field hockey water polo and bridge, among others.

“I’ve taken part in a lot of international tournaments as a player but the feeling before the Maccabi European Games is different and special,” said former national women’s basketball team captain, Liron Cohen, who will be in Berlin as the manager of the Israeli delegation.

“I’m certain that it will be an extraordinary experience for all the delegation when we walk out with Israel flags at the opening ceremony, especially as the event is being held in Germany.”

Maccabi Israel regards the European Maccabi Games as a preparation event for the 20th Maccabiah Games, which will be held in Israel during July 2017.

Over 9,500 athletes from 80 countries are expected to participate at the next Maccabiah, with Jerusalem to be the main host city, 50 years after its reunification.

“I’m really happy to see Israel send such a big delegation which will strengthen the relations with Jewish clubs across Europe,” said Maccabi World Union Sports Director Roy Hessing. “After the successful Maccabiah Games in the summer of 2013 we are looking forward to these European Games and the Pan American Games later this year as we prepare for the 20th Maccabiah.”


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