Big Macc squeezed on funds
There are fears that next year's Jewish Olympics could be scaled down as a result of the credit crunch.
The latest financial crisis engulfing July's Maccabiah Games revolves around the failure of the organisers to raise sufficient sponsorship funds due to the global recession.
But Stuart Lustigman, vice-chairman of the International Maccabiah Committee and chairman of the International Junior Maccabiah Committee, has played down the fears. "We have overcome adversity in the past in different respects and we have enough experienced people on board to ensure that these Games will be the most successful yet," he said.
"We proved during the intifada that the Maccabiah will never be cancelled but we have to look at every eventuality. Everyone out there is making a concerted effort to attend and I don't think any athletes need worry that the Maccabiah experience will be taken away from them. But we cannot afford to have a deficit as it would harm the movement.
"Athletes will not be asked for more money. We have currently received registrations from 30 countries and are heading for record participation from Great Britain, the USA, Hungary, Finland and Spain. We are on course to be the biggest ever with more than 7,000 competitors expected."
Lustigman's comments follow concerns raised by Amir Peled, budget director of the Maccabiah. He warned that the Games organisers had expected to raise 13.4 per cent of the $18 million budget from commercial sponsors and private donors but had so far only managed to collect a quarter of this sum.
"If we don't succeed in raising additional funding to the tune of nearly $2 million, then we will be forced to cancel part of the 12-day games. The bottom line is that each day of the event costs $1million to run. The opening and closing ceremonies cost almost $3 million but we cannot cut the budget of these events, which set the tone of the entire Games."
Sponsors include El Al, Hertz and Motorola Israel as well as London-based billionaire Teddy Saguy, whose company Playtech recently formed an internet gaming subsidiary with William Hill. But organisers have failed to recruit a sponsor from Israel's major banks and credit card companies although this is being addressed by the organising committee. The event will be shown on TV outside of Israel for the first time via a highlights package on Jewish Life TV, which is also sponsoring the 21-man squad of the Mumbai cricket team.