Lapid won’t take second place to Herzog at Maccabiah Games

Once his request to speak first was rejected, the interim prime minister decided not to speak at all at Thursday’s opening ceremony.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid has decided not to address Thursday’s opening ceremony of the Maccabiah Games at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem after his request to address the audience first was denied, Channel 12 reported Tuesday.

Traditionally, the Israeli president opens what is dubbed the “Jewish Olympics” after all the athletes march in by country and a torch is lit, following the procedure of the regular Olympic Games.

This 21st edition of the competition held every four years will have an especially important guest speaker, as U.S. President Joe Biden has carved out time from his three-day visit in Israel to greet the athletes.

Americans make up the largest contingent of participants after the Israelis, with over 1,200 athletes ranging in age from the Youth to Masters (age 55+) categories, coaches, managers and others.

Once Biden was set to speak, Lapid asked the Maccabiah organizers if he could jump ahead of President Isaac Herzog, but they refused to break protocol for him.

No rancor was expressed in the joint statement that was subsequently issued from the Offices of the President and Prime Minister.

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“In light of the participation of the U.S. president in the Maccabiah event, it was decided by mutual consent and coordination between the offices that only the presidents will speak and the prime minister will come and honor the ceremony with his presence,” it said.

Competitions already began Tuesday and will run through July 26th.

The Maccabiah Games began in 1932. It is the largest Jewish athletic competition and the 3rd-largest sports event in the world. Only the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup dwarf it in size – but not by much this year. Some 10,000 athletes from 80 countries are competing in 42 sports throughout the country, including disabled athletes in their own version of the Paralympic Games.

Aside from traditional individual sports such as judo, track and fencing, team sports include rugby, netball and softball. Several new sports are being introduced, including wave surfing, bouldering (rock wall climbing), motocross (cross-country racing on motorcycles) for men, and ice hockey, football and futsal for women.

The main Maccabiah torch at the opening ceremony will be carried into the stadium and lit by Tokyo Olympics gold medalists Linoy Ashram (rhythmic gymnastics) and Artem Dolgopyat (floor exercise). While tickets are being sold to the ceremony, ranging in price from NIS100 to 1,800, entry to all tournaments is free.

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All the contests will be livestreamed on sites such as Facebook and the Maccabiah’s website for those who could not make it in person.