Some 3,500 Athletes from 35 Nations Are Competing in the 11th Maccabiah

The 11th Maccabiah — the Jewish Olympic games — opened in the giant Ramat Gan Stadium last night as some 3500 competing athletes from 35 countries marched onto the field before a wildly cheering crowd of more than 50,000 sports fans and Israeli dignitaries, including President Yitzhak Navon and Premier Menachem Begin.

The Israeli contingent, by far the largest with 900 marchers, was followed in size by the American team numbering 372 and the South Africans with more than 200. The smallest entry was from Singapore which sent two contestants. Others came from such far off lands as Chile and New Zealand. The Dutch squad carried a huge banner reading, “Love From Holland.” The Brazilian group danced onto the field in Mardi Gras fashion.

FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE MARKS GAMES

The march-on was preceded by the descent of 16 Israeli paratroopers to the green turf. It was followed by Israel’s top seeded tennis champ, Shlomo Glickstein, who raced into the stadium bearing the traditional Maccabiah torch which had been kindled earlier in Modi ‘in, birthplace of the Maccabees, and run in relays to Ramat Gan.

Contributing to the carnival atmosphere of the opening ceremonials was a gymnastic display by hundreds of Israeli youngsters who released thousands of silver balloons as they completed their exhibition.

Earlier in the evening, Navon and Begin, who arrived in motorcades, were greeted officially by Mayor Israel Peled of Ramat Gan and Michael Kevehazi, chairman of the Maccabiah Organizing Committee. The American team marched on the field led by flag-bearer Danny Schayes, a seven-foot tall basketball ace. The marchers were joined by Rep. Jack Kemp (R. NY), who is currently visiting Israel.

He is slated to present medals to the winners of early swimming events before returning to the U.S. Kemp, a one-time professional football player — with the Buffalo Bills–was instrumental in securing a $25,000 donation for the U.S. Committee Sports For Israel from the National Football League (NFL). The USCSFI is the American organization that funds and supplies the U.S. Maccabiah teams.

GAMES TO CONTINUE TO JULY 16

With the festivities over, the games began in earnest today and will continue until July 16, featuring competition in 31 sports at 58 locations around Israel. They include basketball, trap shooting, lawn bowling, fencing, golf, chess and bridge. The swimming and track meets are expected to be the most dramatic.

This year, the competing athletes will be housed together according to their sports specialties rather than nationality. It will give the men and women in the same competitive areas a chance to mingle and exchange ideas.

The first Maccabiah games were held in March, 1932. They lasted only two days and drew about 25,000 fans from abroad. This year’s Maccabiah is reported to have cost $3.5 million to mount.

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