History of Games: Poland triumphs at first Maccabiah

In the days leading up to the 18th Maccabiah Games The Jerusalem Post takes a look back at the history of the event known as the "Jewish Olympics".

maccabiah 88 (photo credit: Maccabi World Union)
maccabiah 88
(photo credit: Maccabi World Union)
The first Maccabiah, held in 1932, brought 390 Jewish athletes from around the world to what was then known as Palestine. Participants from 18 countries flocked to the new Maccabiah stadium outside Tel Aviv, which was completed only hours before the opening ceremony. To publicize Maccabiah, a group of young men took a whirlwind trip through Egypt, the Balkans and Central and Northwest Europe, conducting the whole campaign in 11 days. The excitement was contagious - some of the American swimmers jumped off their ship from the US and swam the last mile to shore, unable to wait any longer to set foot in Palestine. People flocked to the Games from all over the country, lining the roadways to watch athlete processions and making and buying forged tickets. The crowds in the stadium regularly exceeded the maximum capacity. Athletes were housed all over Tel Aviv and surrounding towns - in private homes, tents and sometimes even classrooms. Organizers scrambled to provide adequate facilities for all the events and the swimming events were held in the ocean because the country lacked a competition-standard swimming pool at the time. The Polish delegation was the overall winner of the 1932 Maccabiah, with the Austrians and the Americans coming in second and third, respectively. Some of the world's greatest Jewish athletes made their mark on the first games and it set the tone for the 17 that have since followed.