Participants in next year’s 18th Maccabiah Games will be forced to meet the costs of the event’s spiralling budget resulting from the strength of the shekel and the weakness of the dollar.
Meeting in Ramat Gan last weekend, the Presidents Forum of the World Maccabi Union decided to increase participants fees by $350 to $2,930. UK athletes will have to pay the sterling equivalent. Participants are also certain to be hit by rising fuel costs, given that the fee includes hotels and transportation in Israel but not air fares.
The organising committee budgeted $18 million for the Games two years ago at an exchange rate of 4.2 to the shekel. Since then the Israeli currency has strengthened by almost 20 per cent against the US currency. Maccabiah representatives from around the world reluctantly agreed the price hike, which they anticipate will raise an additional $2.5 million.
They will also ask the Israeli government, currently contributing $2.5 million, for an extra $500,000. The Jewish Agency and other funds and sponsors will maintain their current contribution of $1.5 million.
“The main thing is that the Games will be going ahead,” Maccabiah spokesman Yaron Michaeli said. “We had no choice otherwise the Games would have been cancelled.
“Jewish community representatives reported that there may be some cancellations but we still expect a record turnout.”
An unprecedented 7,000 participants from Jewish communities around the world have registered for the 2009 Maccabiah including 2,000 youths, easily surpassing the previous record of 5,700 participants at the 2005 Maccabiah. T
hey will be joined by 2,000 Israeli athletes. Michaeli said that despite the revised budget and anticipated increased income from the participants and Israeli government, there would still be a shortfall.
“We will have to make lots of small cuts in the logistics,” he explained. But he stressed that there would be “no cost-cutting in matters related to safety and security”.
David Pinnick, head of the Great Britain Maccabiah organising committee, commented: “We calculated our price in anticipation of the final decision made by our Israeli hosts five days ago and we can confirm that the cost to our athletes remains the same. Namely, £2,795 for open and junior athletes and £3,250 for masters. Subject to no further extraordinary and unforeseen levies and taxes which are beyond our control, these prices are now fixed.
“We are still expecting record numbers of participants from the UK and the numbers of registrations suggested by Israel is similarly optimistic.” The International Maccabiah Committee has granted Scotland permission to send an independent delegation to the Maccabiah.
Traditionally, they have travelled as part of the GB team but had asked to break away. The team will be known as Maccabi GB Scotland.