Tight security planned for Maccabi Games

Young Jewish athletes to compete in event at venues in Balto. County

August 11, 2002|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,SUN STAFF

Security will be tight when the 2002 JCC Maccabi Games, featuring 2,000 young Jewish athletes competing in 13 sports, begin today.

Baltimore County police and security staff at the venues have increased patrols for the five-day event, set up command centers and consulted with the FBI.

Most of the competition - sponsored by Jewish Community Centers - will take place in central Baltimore County: at Towson University, Goucher College and the Park School. The bowling and golf tournaments will take place at other county locations.

Spectators will not be allowed to go directly to the site of each competition, and the public will have limited access to areas nearby.

Spectators will be asked to show photo identification and will not be allowed to carry bags, except for purses, event organizers said.

Not a result of Sept. 11

Police and JCC Maccabi Games staff said these measures are not the result of any direct terrorism threat, nor have plans changed since Sept. 11.

"Planning for this event has been in the works for a year and half - before 9/11," said Bill Toohey, a Police Department spokesman. "We've planning this level of security since we first learned of the event."

"It is like the Fourth of July in that there will be events all around the county at different times of day," said Toohey, who noted that officers can't take leave this week. "We have to have everyone working."

Opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena. Tickets to that event are sold out, games organizers said.

Competition begins tomorrow at 8 a.m. and continues daily until 4:30 p.m. Closing ceremonies, which are not open to the public, will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.

Only Cross Campus Drive in Towson will be closed - from 6 p.m. today until 10 p.m. Thursday - because of the games. Major traffic delays are not anticipated because the events are spread out, Toohey said.

Leslie K. Pomerantz, the games director, said parking has been arranged so that the competition should not inconvenience neighbors of Towson University or other games sites. "I don't think it will impact the community," she said.

Because preparations for fall classes and sports have not begun at Towson University, a spokeswoman said, students should not be affected either.

Spectators to register

Spectators must register and receive credentials at a security checkpoint at the Towson Center on the university campus.

State police, Towson University campus police, and Goucher College security staff will assist county police during the games.

Neither Toohey or Pomerantz would discuss details about extra precautions being taken this week.

The Maccabi Games are a yearly Jewish summer competition - the youth version of the Maccabiah Games, first held in Israel in 1932 and then every four years since the 1950s.

Baltimore served as host for the Maccabi Games in 1992. This year, four other North American cities will hold similar summer games: Montreal; Memphis, Tenn.; Omaha, Neb., and Springfield, Mass.

Sun staff writer Alec MacGillis contributed to this article.

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