About 2,600 athletes threw hats, flags and kisses to a capacity crowd at the Baltimore Arena last night during the opening ceremonies of the 1992 Jewish Community Centers' North American Maccabi Youth Games.
Forty participants from Israel began the procession of athletes, ages 13-16, that have come from 50 North American cities and seven foreign countries, including Australia, Great Britain and the former Soviet Union.
About 1,000 families in the Baltimore-Columbia area are serving as hosts to the athletes.
Dressed in orange and black warm-up suits, with matching Baltimore Orioles baseball caps, the 251-strong Baltimore delegation received a standing ovation.
"And they thought the 1992 Games were going to be in Barcelona," said Maccabi Games general chairman Morton Plant.
"I'm happy about the [opening ceremonies], that's an understatement," Plant said. "I hope the rest of the week goes as well."
Three athletes from the Baltimore delegation -- Michelle Brown, Sarah Manekin and Avi Meyerstein -- were torch-bearers in the Maccabi Run, passing the flame to 1992 Olympic rhythmic gymnast Tamara Levinson who lighted the star-shaped torch.
"It's overwhelming to see your enthusiasm and I know you'll have a great time here," said Gov. William Donald Schaefer. "The national television will be on you. We will see the good, strong part of our youth in the world."
The JCC's Maccabi Youth Games are held every two years in North America.
They are an offshoot of the Maccabiah Games that are held every four years in Israel.
The games will conclude Sunday at the UMBC stadium with a ceremony honoring the 11 Israelis who were killed in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich, Germany.
Facts and figures
What: The North American Maccabi Youth Games
Who: 2,600 athletes, between the ages of 13 and 16, from the United States, Canada, Israel, Mexico, Venezuela, Britain, the Commonwealth of Independent States and Australia. They will be competing in 13 sports.
When: Through Aug. 30
Where: At five locations throughout the Baltimore area. At UMBC: basketball, soccer, softball, swimming, table tennis and tennis; at Catonsville Community College: gymnastics, karate, softball, soccer, tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling; at Catonsville High School: basketball, soccer, softball and tennis; at Merritt Athletic Club: racquetball; at Suburban and Bonnie View country clubs: golf.