Israel prepares for star-studded Maccabiah Games

By Simon Griver, March 14, 2013
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Aly Raisman won double gold at the 2012 London Olympics

Aly Raisman won double gold at the 2012 London Olympics

Amir Peled says this summer’s Maccabiah Games in Israel will be the biggest and best after confirming that a number of Olympic stars will take part.

American gymnast Aly Raisman will be the star performer at what will be the largest-ever gathering of athletes at the Jewish Olympics.

Speaking at the Maccabiah Plenum this week, Games chairman Peled said: "More than 6,500 competitors will be coming from abroad, with countries such as Cuba taking part for the first time, in a Games that will stress the quality of the competition."

Peled said that 9,000 competitors from 72 countries will participate at the 19th Maccabiah, featuring 42 sports in four categories – Youth, Open, Masters and Paralympics.

Australian sprinter Steve Solomon caught the eye at the Olympics last year

Australian sprinter Steve Solomon caught the eye at the Olympics last year

That quality will include Raisman who won two gold medals and a bronze in the women’s artistic gymnastics in London last summer. Raisman won gold dancing to her Hava Nagilah routine and will be honoured during the opening ceremony and, although she will give a performance, she is not expected to compete.

Among the competitors will be Brazilian judo bronze medallist Felipe Kitadel, as well as Australian sprinter Steven Solomon, who finished eighth in the 400m final in London last year.

The American delegation, who will once again be the largest visiting squad, will feature 2008 double Olympic gold medallist Garrett Weber-Gale and New York Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire, who recently discovered he has Jewish heritage.

Israel’s former European Games pole vault gold medallist Alex Averbukh will come out of retirement to compete.

New sports introduced into the Maccabiah this year will include ice hockey, handball, shooting, archery, bridge, badminton and open water swimming. Maccabi Tel Aviv coach David Blatt won Maccabiah gold in the basketball competition in 1981. He was the only Israeli to win a medal in London as coach of Russia’s basketball team that finished third.

Blatt said: "Winning the Maccabiah was a great dream which I achieved and which gave me a deep connection to Israel."

The opening and closing ceremonies will take place at the recently expanded 30,000-seat Teddy stadium in Jerusalem on July 18 and 30 respectively, and an estimated 30,000 tourists will visit Israel to watch family and friends compete.

Great Britain is expected to send a delegation in the region of 400.

    Last updated: 4:07pm, March 14 2013