European Maccabi Games 2011 - Vienna
The Maccabi Games are the biggest Jewish sports events and are organized in a similar way to the Olympic Games. The Games are one of the five biggest international sporting events worldwide.
The Israel Maccabiah is organized by the Maccabi World Union (MWU), which is the umbrella organization overseeing all regional Maccabi unions.
Although the history of the Maccabi Games is not as old as the Olympic Games the first Maccabiah did take place in Tel Aviv as far back as 1932. Meanwhile the Maccabiah has become a sporting anchor event which takes place regularly every four years in Israel.
The European Maccabi Games
Exciting and in our case very interesting are the European Maccabi Games. They also take place every four years, however always two years after the Maccabiah in Israel.
The participating European Delegations send their best Jewish athletes to this event. The organization of the Games is carried out in very close cooperation with the European Maccabi Confederation (which currently has 36 member nations) and the national Maccabi Confederation (in Austria the Jewish Sport Union, to which the Unions of the Hakoah Vienna and Maccabi Vienna belong).
A short glance into the past
History shows the significance of these Games being held in Austria. Already in the mid-20s, the Jewish people felt the increasing influence of National Socialism. As the Nazis used the cliché that Jewish people were not athletic, sport clubs started to refuse memberships to Jews. It was then that the idea of creating their own Jewish sport union came up in order to give Jewish people the opportunity to train.
Already before 1917 Maccabi Clubs existed all over Europe (including the tsarist Russia). In the following years, Maccabi Clubs started to be established all over the world wherever the Jewish communities were relatively free from oppression. In Vienna, before WWII, the Hakoah Sports Club became one of the biggest Jewish sports clubs in the world.
During World War II a large number of Maccabi Clubs in Germany and Austria were closed and their ownership seized. Clubs in Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia suffered the same fate.
Right after WWII, in September 1945, Hakoah was resurrected in Vienna. Today's Hakoah sports center, the center-to-be of the 13th European Maccabi Games, is a sign of the blossoming and successful story of this sports club.
Vienna as Venue for the 2011 Games
The fact that Vienna was chosen by the European Maccabi Federation (EMC) as the scene for the 13th European Maccabi Games gives the Games a very special cultural significance. It is the first time since 1945 that Jewish athletes from dozens of nations will come together as participants of the tournament on a territory of former Nazi Germany.
In July 2011 not only about 2.000 athletes will compete in over 15 disciplines, it will also be a big, colourful event where old contacts can be renewed and new ones created, where friends are made and common interests are discovered. These games will then be a festival of harmony as well.
Vienna is the capital and at the same time one of the nine Provinces in the Republic of Austria. Originally Vienna lay on the River Wien but it now also stretches over both sides of the River Danube; it is 40 km away from the borders of Slovakia with its capital Bratislava.
Jewish life in Vienna
The history of the Viennese Jews is inseparable from the history of the City of Vienna. Although the Nazis nearly succeeded in destroying the once blossoming Jewish community, these days there is still a rather small but confident and proud Jewish Community. From its tiny remnants, the Jewish Community of Vienna has made a remarkable recovery over the past decades, both on the inside as well as on the outside.
Today it presents itself as a confident Jewish community with a very active Jewish life. Different schools, a network of social facilities as well as diverse cultural and athletic events make it very clear how vibrant the Community is. One of the core parts of the Jewish athletic life here in Vienna is the newly constructed Hakoah Sport Centre, where a large part of the sport disciplines of these Games will take place.
According to a well-known slogan: Vienna is different. Some say that Vienna, although inhabited by 2 million people, is a metropolis with village atmosphere. This is exactly what creates the unique charm of this neatly arranged city, where some things take place which would be impossible in other parts of the country.