(JNS.org) Israel kicked off the 20th Maccabiah Games Thursday night with a record 10,000 athletes.
“Welcome to Jerusalem and welcome to Israel,” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin told a crowd of some 30,000 people at Jerusalem’s Teddy Stadium for the opening ceremony. “Welcome home and welcome to the thousands of wonderful athletes that came to join us from 80 different countries.”
The Maccabiah Games, which are dubbed the “Jewish Olympics,” will feature athletes competing in 43 sports this year. Held every four years, the competition is the world’s third-largest sporting event. From July 4-18, the games will have the added significance of coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the reunification of this year’s host city, Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu encouraged the athletes to “achieve everything you want and beyond what you want.”
“We are all one people. The Maccabiah is named for the Maccabees; 2,200 years ago we were conquered by the descendants of Alexander the Great and the Maccabees, five brothers, liberated the Jews against all odds, they liberated Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said, adding, “You are all winners, you are all champions.”