Baltimore preparing for Maccabi Games

About 2,000 teen athletes from around the world to compete next month

July 29, 2002|By Jamie Stiehm | Jamie Stiehm,SUN STAFF

Baltimore will play host to the 2002 JCC Maccabi Games, a yearly international Jewish youth summer games competition, from Aug. 11 to Aug. 15.

About 460 local athletes ages 13 to 16 have signed up to participate, staff organizers from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore said, as have about 650 host families in Baltimore.

Los Angeles, Houston and Chicago are sending teams, as are Israel, England, Mexico, Venezuela, Poland and Russia, JCC organizers said.

The five-day event will feature about 2,000 athletes of both genders competing in 13 sports, including soccer, track and field, tennis, golf, swimming, volleyball, baseball, softball, basketball, table tennis, roller hockey and dance. Three Baltimore County venues will be used: Towson University, the Park School and Goucher College.

"We were asked to do this and we said we'd love to, since it's a great experience and involves the kids who are housing athletes," said Joseph Meyerhoff II, co-chairman of the games. "It's been two years in the planning."

Baltimore served as host for the games in 1992, when they were 10 years old. The experience was so positive for hundreds of area Jewish families, organizers said, that many continue to keep in touch with the youths who stayed with them at the time. That event also paved the way for Baltimore to become a host city again at the 20-year mark.

"It's overwhelming and exciting, but we're a fine-oiled machine at this point," said Leslie K. Pomerantz, the games director. "This is by far the largest community-building activity we're doing."

The JCC Maccabi Games -- a youth version of the Maccabiah Games first held in Israel in 1932 and then every four years since the 1950s -- have become so popular that four other North American cities will hold similar summer games next month: Memphis, Tenn., Omaha, Neb., Springfield, Mass., and Montreal.

Those interested in attending as spectators must go through a security clearance at the Towson University campus site, Pomerantz said.

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