An MWU spokesman said the “postponement of the Maccabiah by one year will help the heads of Jewish communities worldwide, as well as the Organising Committee in Israel, to recover from the Coronavirus crisis, and to continue recruiting a record number of sportspeople to come to the world’s main Jewish sporting event.
He said: “The Maccabiah has always sought to attract the best Jewish sportspeople and that would not have been possible if it took place at the same times as the Olympics in Tokyo.”
The 21st Maccabiah had been scheduled to take place in Israel between July 20 and August 3 2021. But with the postponement of the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo until July 23 until August 8 2021, Maccabiah organisers were left with no alternative but to postpone the Games until the following summer.
Maccabiah CEO Roy Hessing said: “We have come to terms with this decision to postpone the Games, which was taken together with the heads of the Maccabi communities worldwide, even though this has not happened in the past.
“We will continue with the preparations together with our many partners, in Israel and around the world, in order to hold the best possible 21st games in the summer of 2022.”
This is the first time the Maccabiah has been postponed since the third Games was cancelled in 1938, due to concerns by the British Mandate authorities about illegal immigration. The Maccabiah was eventually held in 1950 after the Second World War and Israel’s War of Independence.
Since the fourth Maccabiah in 1953, the event has always been held in Israel in the summer following the Olympics.
Recognised by the International Olympic Committee as the Jewish Olympics, the Maccabiah is the world’s third largest sporting event and biggest Jewish event. The 2017 Maccabiah attracted a record 10,000 participants from 74 countries who participated in 46 sports across four divisions - Open, Junior, Masters and Paralympics, as well as an estimated 20,000 tourists who travelled to Israel to watch their relatives and friends compete.
Maccabi GB were one of the delegations to support the decision for a one-year postponement of the Games.
Traditionally one of the largest squads, MGB have selected managers for most sports but trials have been delayed due to the ban on social gatherings, with venues including Rowley Lane closed.
Maccabi GB chairman David Pinnick said: “We are obviously disappointed but completely understand the reasons behind the postponement.
“This is a major sporting event which requires a significant planning period. With the current worldwide uncertainty, it is right to remove that pressure from the organisers, all the participating countries, and their athletes.”
Pinnick said: “The challenges facing the world are far more critical. We will come back bigger and stronger in the years to come, but for now along with everyone we are focused on what can be done during this unprecedented crisis.”
There have been more than 400 applications for the MGB delegation and General Team Manager Joel Nathan said: “The majority of our management team are in place. Following the decision to postpone, we will offer them the opportunity to continue with their roles, however, we will understand if some want to step down for personal reasons.
“We were planning trials, selecting uniform, arranging flights and everything else required for a squad of this size. While the athletes see the preparation from a sporting perspective, it takes us almost two years to prepare for the event from a logistical point of view.
“Taking these sorts of numbers to Israel including 200 juniors requires meticulous and extensive planning.”
Nathan continued: “While most things can be put on ice, the biggest disappointment surrounds our junior squad where the tournaments are age-based and may mean that some athletes will now miss out if they will no longer qualify within the potential new age groups as they would have done, in 2021. We await confirmation from the MWU to see if the age group dates will be changed.”
Asked if the delay could affect the cost of the Games or the size of the GB delegation, Nathan replied: “That’s the million dollar question. The world is in the middle of a crisis the like we have not seen in most of our lifetimes. The next steps will be for the world to recover, take stock and then move forward. I hope our planned squad size is not affected, but the economic world will change and that could have an impact.”
Additional reporting by Simon Griver