Nine thousand athletes from 72 different countries will compete this summer in 42 categories during the 19th Maccabiah Games in Israel. The Jewish Olympics will take place in July. Many exciting names are set to take part in the Games this year.
CEO Amir Peled, stated that there are a few new countries taking part this year, such as Cuba, but “unfortunately, Iran will not be taking part in the Games.”
Yesterday was the official press conference in Israel announcing the Games, and participants David Blatt and Yael Arad were special guests, sharing their own experiences from previous games.
Arad, winner of the medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and member of Israel’s Olympic Committee, was the first Israeli to ever win an Olympic medal. “When I first competed in the Maccabiah in 1985 I didn’t do so well, but I can still remember how excited I was to take part. Eight years later I lit the flame at the opening ceremony and that is a moment I will never forget.”
Blatt made aliyah to Israel in 1979, and said that playing in the Maccabiah Games was a “dream come true” for him. “The athletes in the Maccabiah not only try to lift themselves to new heights but they also try to lift each other,” said Blatt, who won a gold medal with the USA basketball team at the 1981 Games. “The Maccabiah isn’t just about competing or recording a result. It’s about cooperation.”
Two of the biggest names attached to the Games are gymnast Aly Raisman and NY Knick Amar'e Stoudemire. Raisman will be a special guest, not a competitor, while Stoudemire will be part of Team Canada’s coaching staff.
The organizing committee also announced a surprising “comeback”—Alex Averbuch, former European champion in the pole vault, will return to competing for one night only – after retiring four years ago. Averbuch, 38, is determined to win the Gold at the Maccabiah, and sees this as his last chance to compete one last time. “I retired in 2009 a few months after my daughter was born. She never had a chance to see me jump, and now she will have the chance to do so,” he said. Averbuch made aliyah to Israel in 1999 from Russia.
The official slogan for this year’s Games is “Connecting to the Maccabiah.” All the athletes will visit IDF bases and meet with soldiers.
Becky Griffin is an Israeli-American television journalist living in New York. A basketball and music lover, Becky can be found on Twitter at @DorothyofIsrael.