European Maccabiah Games open in Vienna

July 7, 2011 20:23


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VIENNA -- Austria's President Heinz Fischer formally opened the 13th European Maccabiah Games at the biggest Jewish gathering in Vienna since the Holocaust.

As many as 5,000 people attended Wednesday's three-hour opening ceremony, a mixture of speeches and spectacle that was held outside City Hall, or Rathaus, just down the street from where Hitler addressed a cheering crowd in March 1938 after Nazi Germany annexed Austria.

This year marks the first time that the European Maccabiah Games have been held in a German-speaking country since World War II.

The opening ceremony stressed that symbolism. Speakers honored the victims of the Shoah but said that holding the games in Vienna was testimony to Jewish spirit and survival.

Some 2,000 athletes from 37 countries are taking part in the week-long games. The athletes range in age from 12 to over 80.

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