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Peled: Maccabiah not far off Olympics

    The largest-ever Maccabiah Games will officially start next Thursday at a gala opening ceremony in front of 32,000 spectators at Jerusalem’s newly enlarged Teddy Stadium.

    More than 9,000 participants will compete in 46 sports, in Junior Open, Masters and Paralympic categories.

    Athletes will come from a record 72 countries, including 25 nations competing for the first time, among them Cuba, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Macedonia and Bosnia.

    "We are almost as big in size as the Olympics," said Maccabiah chairman Amir Peled. "There were 10,500 participants in London last summer and the 19th Maccabiah will be bigger than the Sydney Olympics in 2000. That’s some achievement for such a small country."

    Israel will have the largest delegation with 2,000 athletes while the 1,100-strong USA squad is the largest group from overseas.

    The event will feature 150 participants who have competed at the last two Olympics. American gymnast Aly Raisman, a double gold medallist at London 2012, will give a demonstration performance.

    Yakov Toumarkin, who finished seventh in the 200m backstroke in London, will carry Israel’s flag, but the organizers are not revealing who will be given the ultimate honour of lighting the Maccabiah flame.

    This Maccabiah will be focused on Jerusalem with the closing ceremony also at Teddy Stadium on July 30. Most of the participants and the majority of the 20,000 supporters, made up of friends and relatives of the athletes, will stay at hotels in Jerusalem.

    Mayor Nir Barkat said: "The Maccabiah caps a great year for sport in Jerusalem with the European under-21 football championships, a Formula 1 race, a new stand just finished at Teddy Stadium, and a new basketball arena nearing completion."

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