19th Maccabiah Games kick off in J'lem
Teddy Stadium hosts opening ceremony of international Jewish athletic event in presence of 30,000 viewers, including President Peres, Prime Minister Netanyahu. This year's Maccabiah is biggest ever with record number of participating countries, athletes and sports
Video courtesy of jn1.tv
Through a prerecorded message, US President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron delivered prerecorded messages to the athletes. Obama said the Maccabiah was “a great reminder of the power of sports to bring people together and inspire the best in all of us.”
The prime minister welcomed the athletes, saying "Welcome to Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel."
"Year after year, Jews around the world say 'Next year in Jerusalem,' but you say 'This year in Jerusalem.' We are all one family, and one people – we are all the people of Israel."
Netanyahu urged the visiting athletes to immigrate with their families to Israel and "be a part of the Zionist project."
President Peres also welcomed the athletes, saying that "all of Israel is happy to see you all here… you proudly carry the blue and white flag – the flag of independence and peace."
This year's "Jewish Olympics" is the biggest ever with a record number of participating countries (78), athletes (8,919) and sports (42).
The festive day began at 11 am with the torch relay which left from Kfar Maccabiah in Ramat Gan, as well as a convoy of Harley Davidson riders carrying the flags of the participating countries. The riders reenacted the historic journey from 80 years ago, when riders passed through Europe's Jewish communities and spread the news about the first Maccabiah.
Gymnast Aly Raisman at opening ceremony rehearsal (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Israeli delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Brazilian delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Peres, Netanyahu watching from the gallery (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
South African delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Australian delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Creative Australian (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Argentinian delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
(Photo: Oren Aharoni)
This year's Maccabiah will host representatives from 20 countries which have never participated in the games before, like Armenia, El Salvador, Nicaragua and one tennis player representing Mongolia.
Athletes will compete in 42 different sports, including seven new ones added to the 19th Maccabiah: Archery, ice hockey, handball, shooting, open water swimming, bridge and badminton. The Paralympic events will include tennis, table tennis, cycling, swimming and wheelchair basketball.
American delegation (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Amara Studemeyer (Photo: Oren Aharoni)
(Photo: Oren Aharoni)
Spanish delegation (Photo: Haim Tzach)
The 19th Maccabiah will also be the most expensive in history, with a budget totaling some NIS 200 million (about $55 million) – NIS 120 million ($33 million) from the state budget and Maccabi management and NIS 80 million ($22 million) from the different countries participating in the competitions.
Viewers will get to see as many as 150 athletes who participated in the recent Olympic Games, including American artistic gymnast Aly Raisman who performed her performed her floor exercise at the London Games to the tune of "Hava Nagila" and won two gold medals in the team and individual competitions.
Raisman will be joined by American Olympic swimmer Garrett Weber-Gale, who two gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as Ukrainian breaststroke swimmer Maxim Podoprigora, who represented Austria in three Olympic Games and won a silver medal at the 2001 World Championships.