Maccabiah could feel crunch, GB chief warns

Stars may be forced out of Games


David Pinnick, the head of delegation of Team GB, fears that top-class athletes could be lost to next year's Maccabiah Games because of the credit crunch.

Representatives from the 57 competing nations will meet at the next Maccabiah plenum in Israel in February. It is then that the number of participants from each delegation will be recorded, although Pinnick warns: "We won't know what is around the corner between February and the start of the Games in July. In 2001 we had the intifada but the event went ahead, albeit on a much smaller scale.

"I have no doubt the Games will go ahead but Israel has an $18 million budget for the event, the bulk of which has to be collected from the participants.

Pinnick, 52, feels it is "extremely unlikely" that there will be further increases to the £2,795 fees (open, youth and junior) that each GB athlete must raise.

He said: "We seem to have hit a year of fuel rises and the cost of regular flights to Israel has increased due to the weakness of the dollar. I believe that every country will suffer.

"The development of sports is my paramount job at the moment. We hope to take in excess of 500 athletes but the current economic climate is having implications across all age groups.

"Whether we have 500 or 450 competitors depends on how people are affected by work.

"We're hoping there will be stability at our end but we may lose athletes who have to take difficult decisions at work. We will take whatever size delegation we can but we have to get the funds in. We've got lots of good people behind us and it's full steam ahead."

GB have been trying to raise sponsorship for kit but Pinnick said that athletes "may not find support as generous as in previous years. Fundraising is much harder but it will all be worthwhile once we get out there."

As for medal hopes, Pinnick believes that the open football team has put together "the best possible squad". The team last won a medal in 1961 when former Spurs boss David Pleat played. "If ever we had a chance of winning, this is the year."

He also suggests that "the cricket team has a wonderful chance of clinching a medal". GB expects to be represented in 25 out of 34 sports.

The GB chief also hopes that Olympic rower Josh West will be part of his squad. "Josh has not been before," said Pinnick, "but there is a possibility that he will have other commitments. We will probably know early in the new year."

But it is not all about winning and the team is on the lookout for representation in badminton, track and field and cycling, which features for the first time.

The half-marathon has open entry with competitors required to pay a one-off fee of £275. Pinnick commented: "This discipline allows athletes to engage with the Israeli community and get a flavour of the operation as well as being part of the opening ceremony."

On a personal note, the father-of-four will be supporting daughters Abbi (open netball) and Jessie (junior netball). His wife Alex will be the junior team manager in Israel.

"For me, the Maccabiah is about the holistic experience, the social, educational and cultural aspects which are just as important as the sporting aspect."

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