The 18th Maccabiah Games, Israel’s Jewish Olympiad, are finally here; and judging from the number of registered athletes and other visitors, the two week event promises to be even bigger and better than previous ones with various sporting events taking place all over the country. As in previous Maccabiah venues, the big challenge is being able to see the various events that are being offered, as they are literally scattered around at various sports centers and stadiums, including Jerusalem, Haifa, Tiberius, Caesarea, Netanya, Metro Tel Aviv area, etc., etc.

And the 5,300 foreign and 2,000 Israeli athletes who will be participating in all the various events, including football and Rugby, fencing, basketball, cricket, tennis, judo, track & field, baseball and softball, and more mundane venues like lawn bowls, chess, and table tennis, will likewise be scattered all over in hotels and guest hostels, sport center lodgings, and even home hospitality.

The logistical aspects of these games differ considerably from the Olympiad, in that there is no central Olympic Village for the foreign athletes to stay in, resulting in their being billeted in various places. There is also no central dining facilities, and since many athletes require special diets (depending on the events they participate in) and have various eating schedules (also due to competition event scheduling), feeding all these people is a challenge in itself.

Ramat Gan StadiumMany events are occurring well before the opening ceremony in Ramat Gan National Stadium on July 13th. Some of these include volleyball and other beach events in Nahariya, Haifa, Netanya, Tel Aviv, Ashdod and Ashkdelon. Rugby and some football games will be held on Sunday, July 12. Maccabiah organizers are very pleased that there is a 20% increase in participating athletes despite the ongoing global economic recession. That in itself is a reason to celebrate, many organizers are saying. Although many events require admission tickets, a number of events are free, including the volleyball and other beach events, which means you can combine these with your weekend beach outing. And also in contrary to the Olympiad, many events are for people 50+ and are also suitable for non-athletes (chess, for example).

Some special athletes and sportsmen who will be attending this year’s Maccabiah include American Jewish swimmer Jason Lezak, who won seven medals in three Olympic Games (the swimming events will be held 19-22 July at the Wingate Institute). Argentine football referee Horacio Elizondo, who was the referee for the Final of the World cup tournament in Germany between Italy and France, will serve as the referee at the football tournament; Manchester United legend Sir Bobby Charlton who will be the special guest of the British football team and world chess Grand Master Boris Gelfand.