Vienna will be like no other European Games, says Kyte


Next month's European Maccabi Games in Vienna will be more than just about sport, according to David Kyte.

As head of the Organising Committee for Team GB, Kyte outlined the historical importance of an event where he is committed to providing the best possible Maccabi experience to the British squad.

GB will send its largest-ever delegation to a Euro Games, the biggest event on the Jewish sporting calender this year, with more than 230 athletes supported by family and friends.

"To represent your country in this kind of gathering is always a proud moment," Kyte said. "It will be the first Jewish Games in a former Nazi-occupied territory and to have thousands of athletes marching through the Rathausplatz will be a fantastic sight.

"A number of GB athletes have family members who grew up in Vienna, so for them, this will be quite a vision."

For Kyte, preparations for the Euros started just after the conclusion of the 2009 Maccabiah Games. He said: "It's been a great honour and a great challenge to get everything ready.

"Team manager Samantha Cohen has been a great asset to me personally and Maccabi GB have taken the brunt of the workload."

The Open football competition is regarded as the blue riband event of the Games. Manager Ben Winston has put together a top-class squad that will continue preparations with a warm-up match Wingate & Finchley on June 28.

Kyte said: "The squad has been working hard although a lot of the players come from successful teams that have been playing until the end of April."

The Under 16 football team is also shaping up well. A morale-boosting 4-3 win over Wingate & Finchley in their latest warm-up match featured goals from Sami Zerovabeli, with his fourth strike in three games, plus Sam Carson, Connor Perlmutter and Jake Bentwood.

In a bid to nuture talent in the fast-growing sport of futsal, Kyte said that he would like to see junior players blooded earlier as there is "a lack of junior leagues and facilities around the UK".

He believes that the biggest threat will come from the eastern block in a sport featuring the largest entry, saying: "Ukraine and Latvia are traditionally strong".

There are high hopes for each sport GB has entered with Kyte describing the 22-man golf squad, featuring players competing in the Junior, Open and Masters categories, as "high quality".

Although the Games are for countries in Europe, there are also a number of guest nations including Mexico and Australia. "This is very healthy," says Kyte, "in the same way that we send squads to the JCC and Pan-American Games. It's what Maccabi is all about."

The Maccabi torch arrived in Vienna from Israel on May 29, ahead of the week-long Games which begins on July 5. The opening ceremony itself will attract in the region of 2,200 athletes, 2,000 spectators, 200 VIPs and 100 artists.

Kyte describes the facilities as "first-class" with activities ranging from football to swimming and tennis to bridge based around the Hakoah Centre.

A veteran of 16 Maccabi GB international delegations, both as a player and a manager, Sam Cohen said: "Most squads have been practicing for at least four months, many of them four times a week. Everyone is really feeling the buzz.

"We are sending a junior badminton squad for the first time and I expect them to go from strength to strength. We're also seeing a bit of a resurrection in junior basketball which bodes well for the 2011 Maccabiah."

Cohen also talked about the educational side of the Games, which she describes as "as important as the sport". MGB will also send a group of young leaders who have devised "an elaborate programme". She said: "To sing the Hatikvah with 6,000 Jews will be an uplifting experience."

One of the most important aspects pre-Games is fund-raising to ensure that all selected athletes are able to fulfil their obligations. Cohen said: "People have been very generous. Holding a Jewish event in Vienna has really hit home. They realise that there is something very special about these Games."

Kyte will also spearhead GB's challenge at the 2013 Maccabiah. "Many of the squads are shaping up for Israel in two years. Vienna will give us the opportunity to see athletes in a pressure situation.

"We're taking a youngish squad and I'm confident we'll come back with a nice tally of performances and some medals.

"My hope is that all athletes take home a good and positive Maccabi experience and that all expectations of what they are coming for, in terms of facilities and the level of competition, are met.

"I hope they come home with lifelong friendships from inside and outside the squad."

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