Four years of waiting is to come to an end in spectacular fashion when the 19th Maccabiah gets underway with Thursday’s opening ceremony in the capital’s Teddy Stadium.

Around 32,000 people are expected to pack the stands, with thousands of Jewish athletes from 77 countries to march around the stadium as part of the Parade of Nations.

President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will be among the numerous local and foreign dignitaries present at the ceremony.

Maccabiah 2013 will be the largest in history, with over 9,000 athletes to take part in the competitions across the country over the next two weeks.

The ceremony is set to include the lighting of the Maccabiah cauldron by a mystery man and woman, with windsurfing world champion Lee Korzits and Paralympic gold medalist Noam Gershony to be among those who will carry the torch into the stadium.

This year’s torch was designed by Yaki Marcus, a student of the Department of Inclusive Industrial Design at Jerusalem’s Hadassah Academic College.

Marcus, together with department graduate Yossi Cohen, designed and produced this original work on Hadassah’s campus.

The inspiration behind the design for the torch was to integrate different Jewish symbols for these so-called “Jewish Olympics.” The torch’s cone-like shape is intended to replicate that of a Shofar, with the top section resembling a menorah. The torch is split into five sections to represent the five continents that house world Jewry, with Israel as the focus.

Jewish athletes such as basketball icon Tal Brody and Israeli pole-vaulter Alex Averbukh, among many others, have had their turn to safeguard the famed torch on its journey around the state.

Those in attendance and hundreds of thousands of TV viewers around the world will also be able to enjoy live performances by local and internationally renowned artists such as Rami Kleinstein, one of Israel’s best-known composers, Grammy Award winning violinist Miri Ben Ari, X-Factor USA finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar, Canadian-born singer and winner of The Voice-Israel Kathleen Reiter, and Israeli pop-star Harel Skaat.

For the first time since 2001, the opening ceremony is returning to Jerusalem. Mayor Nir Barkat has wanted to bring the Maccabiah Games back to the capital since taking office five years ago, and this year’s ceremony will demonstrate just how well Jerusalem can host world-class events.

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