20th Maccabiah Games Takes to the Stage
BY Lee Saunders DATE 07/08/2017
With thousands of tourists from around world coming to Israel for events and a string of iconic summer concerts, even more have arrived in Israel in July- to sweat, battle and compete for pride and glory in the Maccabiah Games, the world’s 3rd largest sporting event after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.
Record numbers compete; more visitors to Israel
Often referred to as the Jewish Olympics, the Maccabiah Games 2017 saw 10,000 athletes of Jewish or Israeli origin (passing the 9,000 in 2013) compete in 45 sports, with traditional favorites including soccer, swimming and tennis, as well as the fascinating-to-watch taekwondo, cricket and wrestling.
Taking place across Israel between July 4 and 18, delegates came from over 80 countries, with the Israeli and US delegations (more than 2,400 and 1,000 respectively) together accounting for around a third of the total number of athletes. However, this year’s event also included many countries that were participating for the first time, including delegations from the Bahamas, Cambodia, the Cayman Islands, Haiti, Malta, Morocco, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Trinidad.
“You’re all winners, you’re all champions!” said the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who alluded to how injuries ended a glorious wrestling and soccer past. His message of luck was also echoed by British and Canadian Prime Ministers, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau, who sent pre-recorded good luck wishes to their teams at the opening ceremony in Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium.
The opening ceremony was one of the most spectacularly colourful events in the Games’ 85-year history. The traditional delegation march was complimented by live performances by major Israeli artists with more than 600 dancers and the ceremony culminated with the lighting of the Maccabiah torch, featuring 5 Israelis, including judokas, Ori Sasson, Yarden Gerbi and world champion rower, Moran Samuel.
All had returned with medals from the Rio Olympics and Paralympics last year to celebrate with a luncheon and well-earned stay with their families at the Dan Tel Aviv.
Yarden returned to be hosted at the Royal Suite at the Dan Jerusalem, ahead of the Maccabiah Games 2017.
Committed to supporting, nurturing and boosting sporting talent in Israel, the teams’ success has long been a source of great pride for Dan Hotels, which regularly sponsors and hosts events for the Israeli athletes.
While the closing ceremony of the previous Maccabiah Games, back in 2013, took place at the Dan Caesarea, this year’s event saw the Dan Tel Aviv host delegates from Canada, Mexico, Spain, USA, Great Britain, Ireland and South Africa, winners of the first gold medal after defeating Israel in the rugby sevens final.
Meanwhile, in chess, one of the Maccabiah Games’ chess tournaments actually took place at the Dan Jerusalem, which also welcomed former Israeli politician, author and chess prodigy, Natan Sharansky to the hotel. Guests were allowed to compete and test their strategy and nerve against Sharansky, who famously beat the world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1996.
Former Hapoel Tel Aviv footballer Gili Landau (right) came to the Dan Jerusalem to speak to, inspire and encourage Maccabiah competitors.
Sharing the athletes’ values of ambition, resilience and teamwork, the Dan Hotels recognizes these attributes as it too celebrates its own successful milestone this year– a 70th birthday.
By the end of the Games, Israel had much to celebrate. The team comfortably topped the medals table with 323 medals, around a third of them gold, and with three times as many medals as second-placed USA.
The real triumph, however, was the pure enjoyment and unbridled joy of thousands of Jewish athletes from all corners of the globe, coming to compete and enjoy all that Israel has to offer. For many of these visitors “returning home,” this was their first visit, but certainly not their last.
Written by Lee Saunders