One Month Away to 14th European Maccabi Games
On July 28th, 2015, just a short month away, 2300 athletes from 36 countries will be marching in the Opening Ceremonies of the 14th European Maccabi Games, in Berlin, Germany. Among them will be a small delegation of Canadian athletes.
The Maccabiah Games, which take place in Israel every 4 years, are a very well known event in Canada and around the world. In 2013 over 9,000 athletes from 78 countries participated in what is the third largest sporting event in the world, the largest event to take place in Israel, and the largest gathering of Jews in the world.
The Maccabi Regional Games which include the European Maccabi Games (held every 4 years in a European country) and the Maccabi Pan American Games (held every 4 years in a Pan American country) do not receive the same exposure and attention.
The 2015 European Maccabi Games in Berlin will be an exceptional sporting event and Germany’s biggest Jewish event since the end of the Second World War. Athletes will be competing in 19 disciplines at the Berlin Olympic Park, where Jewish athletes were excluded from competing during the 1936 Olympics. The Games will mark 50 years of German-Israeli diplomatic relations and Maccabi Germany’s 50th anniversary. This summer, thousands will send a message of tolerance and openness in the face of anti-Semitism and racism.
Canada has not sent a delegation to the European Maccabi Games since the 2007 Games in Rome, where 14 athletes competed in Junior Basketball and Masters Tennis. The 13th European Maccabi Games were held in 2011 in Vienna, Austria.
“Sending a Canadian representation to Berlin was important to Tommy Bacher, our president, and to Maccabi as an organization, due to the historic and emotional nature of the location to the Jewish people” says Tali Dubrovsky, National Executive Director of Maccabi Canada. However, putting together a Canadian team was not an easy task, and appeared to be impossible at some point. “The weak Canadian dollar made the cost of participation high, and with the Pan American Maccabi Games coming up in December, we had to carefully allocate our resources” she adds.
It wasn’t until two enthusiastic basketball coaches, Vlad Kovalevsky and Andre Serero, approached Ashley Kochman, Maccabi Canada’s Athletic Director, and offered to recruit a Junior Basketball team and take them to Berlin, that Canada’s participation seemed possible. Thanks to their efforts, tryouts were held and a group of talented athletes from across the country were selected for the team. Once the word of a Canadian delegation participating in Berlin was out, Eddy Lang of Calgary, who coached the Junior Swim team at the 2013 Maccabiah Games in Israel, joined the delegation, this time as a Masters swimmer. Shortly after, three Toronto based Masters Golfers signed up, and a delegation of 20 from: Ontario, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia will be travelling to compete in Berlin in July.
The Games will be particularly meaningful for junior athletes who will take part in a mandatory educational program that will include a visit to the memorial site of the Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and a Guinness Book record breaking Shabbat service.
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