Accommodating the Maccabiah

5,000 athletes, over 1,700 hotel rooms...and lots of pasta.

maccabiah 66 (photo credit: )
maccabiah 66
(photo credit: )
The figures are mind-boggling, at least for little Israel: Some 3,500 international athletes and 1,500 accompanying relatives from 60 countries are staying in 1,700 hotel rooms for 14 nights. And that's only a portion of the 5,000 athletes arriving in Israel for the 18th Maccabiah games next week. The games, which open on Monday, are creating a logistical challenge due to the sheer numbers involved, according to Rafi Shelef, the president of International Travel, which is arranging most of the accommodations. Because the locations of sporting events change and the needs of the athletes vary, International Travel has been working with 20 hotels across the country in preparation for the Maccabiah for the past two years. "Hotel staff must be sensitive to the needs of young people," Shelef told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday. The hotel menus had to be adjusted to include more pasta and complex carbohydrates for the athletes. The kitchen staff must also be flexible regarding meal times, because athletes eat according to their competition schedule. In addition to a steady supply of water, the hotel must make sure that ice packs are available at all times. According to an employee of a public relations firm charged with PR for the Maccabiah, the hotel had to provide extra security, a physiotherapist station and notice boards set up by the American coaches to let the athletes know when to report for training. International Travel, which also organized the 17th Maccabiah games in 2005, is responsible for hosting the visiting athletes and their family members from July 13 to July 23. The cost for all of these arrangements amounts to $4 million. "Despite the global economic crisis, there is a 20-percent increase in the number of athletes participating in the 18th Maccabiah," said Danny Pavel, the company's marketing manager. Shelef attributed this increase to the positive experiences athletes had at the games four years ago. He also added that due to the state of the economy, the number of relatives accompanying the athletes had decreased. The athletes' lodgings are organized by the location of their competition, meaning that athletes playing the same sport are generally housed in the same city. Le Meridian, a luxury hotel in Haifa, is accommodating many of the international soccer players, while cricket and judo athletes are staying at the Regency in Jerusalem. Despite the surge of travelers coming to Israel for Maccabiah, "there is no shortage of hotel rooms," said Shmuel Zurel, the director-general of the Israel Hotel Association.•