Maccabiah games opening ceremony Israel150.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
The competitions of the 20th Maccabiah already got under way on Tuesday with the first games of the rugby tournament.
The so-called Jewish Olympics got into full swing with the start of 10 more events on Wednesday, including a meeting between the USA and Cuba in softball and a showdown between the USA and Canada in the ice hockey rink at the Pais Arena in Jerusalem.
The athletes will take a break from competition on Thursday night for the celebratory opening ceremony at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem.
The official slogan of the games is “80 countries, one heart” and is meant to represent the unity of the worldwide Maccabi community.
The Maccabiah will feature over 10,000 participants for the first time, including 3,408 open athletes, 1,747 masters, 2,384 juniors and 81 Paralympians.
That equates to some 23 hotels, 600,000 meals, 1.2 million water bottles and an income of NIS 350 million for local tourism.
There will be 2,100 medals up for grabs across 43 sports played from venues in eight host cities, with Jerusalem making a considerable investment in providing top class sporting facilities. The Kraft Family Sports Complex and the renovated athletics stadium in Givat Ram are among the host venues.
“Fifty years after unification, we have finally returned the Maccabiah to its rightful place, Jerusalem - the capital of Israel,” Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat said last month.
Organizers have promised that Thursday’s opening ceremony will be the biggest yet. There will be seven torch bearers who are set to light the cauldron simultaneously. The former and current athletes include American Olympic swimming champion Anthony Ervin, Israeli Olympic medalists Yarden Gerbi and Ori Sasson, former gymnast Neta Rivkin, basketball player Omri Casspi, Paralympic rowing medalist Moran Samuel and French Olympic medalist Fabien Gilot.
Ervin will be the biggest name to take part in the 20th Maccabiah. The 35-year-old is the reigning Olympic champion in the 50-meter freestyle, winning the gold medal in Rio last summer, 16 years after doing so for the first time in Sydney 2000.
Former US Olympic swimming champions Jason Lezak and Lenny Krayzelburg will also be in Israel as guests of honor. Lezak, who competed in the Maccabiah in 2009, has eight Olympic medals to his name – including four golds – from Sydney 2000 to London 2012.
Krayzelburg, who took part in the 2001 Maccabiah, claimed three gold medals in the 2000 Games and one more in Athens four years later.
The US is sending over 1,100 athletes in total, with Israel having the biggest delegation at around 2,400 athletes.
Windsurfer Ma’ayan Davidovich was chosen to carry the Israel flag and lead out the delegation at Thursday’s ceremony.
“Wow. This is a great honor,” said Davidovich.
“I’ve heard so much about the Maccabiah and this will be one of the greatest moments of my career.”
On TV: Maccabiah 2017 Opening Ceremony
(live on Channel 2 at 9 p.m.)