While here in Australia I was given the opportunity to have a look at preparations for the upcoming Maccabi Australia International Games (MAIG), which will take place in Sydney this July.
The MAIG are a great idea and came about because Australian athletes wanted the chance to represent their country on home soil in front of their family and friends. In addition, Australia provides world class facilities and ones the athletes of the world would relish competing in.
To be participating in the same arenas that showcased action during the 2000 Olympics in Sydney would be the thrill of a lifetime.
The chairman of the MAIG is Tom York and he kindly showed me around. York is an experienced sports administrator having managed Australian teams in men's basketball and men's handball at two Olympics and with him at the helm the MAIG should be in good shape.
"The Maccabi Australia International Games are by far the biggest communal event ever undertaken by the Jewish community in Australia," York told me.
York is pleased with the response of the rest of the Maccabi family to date with already 16 countries committed to sending athletes to Australia. These countries will compete in 20 sports and there should be around 700-800 athletes competing in the debut MAIG.
How the MAIG came to see the light of day is a story that reflects the signs of the times.
In the 1930s, Maccabi carnivals were sporting competitions between the Australian states. They began slowly but by the 60s and 70s, they were huge with the majority of young Jewish adults attending. Hundreds of marriages developed from couples meeting at the carnival.
But by the 1990s and the new millennium kids were less interested in playing sports plus they had new means by which to meet people. Carnivals faded and Maccabi Australia hopes the MAIG will fill the void left by them.
There is no doubt that Sydney is capable of putting on a great show. It was a fantastic host during the Olympics and 2003 Rugby World Cup, but it has also played host to such world class events as the Soccer World Youth Cup and the Tennis Masters Cup.
Excitement is building for the MAIG as it is for the soccer's new age in Australia. After a 32-year break from the World Cup, Australia will be back competing in sport's biggest tournament.
But what is more exciting for the folks down under is that they have been admitted as a member of the Asian Football Confederation. For the 2007 Asian Cup, Australia drew Bahrain, Kuwait and Lebanon.
The Socceroos now get to play in meaningful matches whereas up until now, they only played World Cup qualifiers every four years. The six-match, round-robin qualifying round allows them to lose a game and still make it, which is distinct from the sudden death aspect their World Cup qualifying used to have.
Asia is huge land mass. Some 44 million square kilometers in size, it is some 15m. square kilometers bigger than the next-largest continent, Africa and stretches all the way from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
The irony about Australia joining Asia is that Israel used to play against Australia in World Cup qualifying, which didn't make any sense at all. If you discounted political factors and only took geographical ones into consideration, Israel would be in the AFC.
FIFA was way ahead of its time and no one knew.
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