Fireworks at the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in Jerusalem
Fireworks at the opening ceremony of the 20th Maccabiah Games in JerusalemYonatan Sindel/Flash 90

President Reuven Rivlin on Thursday evening officially opened the 20th Maccabiah Games, being held this year with the theme of celebrating 50 years of a united Jerusalem.

Also speaking at the opening ceremony was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The event was attended by around 30,000 athletes and their supporters, and saw a procession of 80 national teams from all the countries represented at the Games.

“Welcome to Jerusalem, welcome to Israel. Welcome home. How great it is to see you all here in Jerusalem – the rebuilt and free, eternal capital of Israel – for the opening of the 20th Maccabiah Games,” Rivlin began his remarks.

“This is the biggest ever Maccabiah since the Games began 85 years ago. Then, in the year 1932, the skies over Europe had already began to darken. And today, today we stand here, marking the 20th Maccabiah Games themed around the 50th anniversary of liberation of Jerusalem,” he noted,

The President quoted Yosef Yekutieli, one of the leaders and initiators of the Maccabiah Games who said the aim of the Games was “to elevate – not just physically, but also spiritually”.

“The sporting spirit as we feel it, pushes us to break down the barriers of the body and soul. It pushes us to break through existing barriers. To create a new reality. To assess the boundaries, and to each time reach higher, be faster, stronger. This is the same spirit from which came Zionism. This is the same spirit from which came the Maccabiah. This is the spirit we expect from you also today, here at these Games, in the competitions, on the sports fields, in the swimming pools. I know the innovative and brave sporting spirit, which spreads its wings and reaches for the sky. In just a few short moments, the adrenaline and the elation will burst forth, and will fill the tracks and fields of Jerusalem, in Haifa, and across the country, from north to south. Together, we will all join in the true festival of sport, a festival of mind and body.”

Rivlin went on to speak of the memory of the athletes who were killed in the tragedy at the 15 Maccabiah Games, and of the Israeli athletes who were murdered by terrorists at the Munich Olympics – some of whom he noted, were Maccabiah champions.

“Our hearts are with their families,” he said.

The President concluded by declaring the Games open, and wished all the sportsmen and women, the many spectators in the stadiums and at home “uplifting days, days of fun, enjoyment and tension, record-breaking moments; personal records, national, and international records. My dear athletes, our land is your land, our home is your home.”

“Congratulations to all of us, on the opening of the 20th Maccabiah Games, here in Jerusalem!”