The Jewish Journal
By Marvin Glassman
The 2015 JCC Maccabi Games & ArtsFest for Jewish teens aged 13-17 begins in grand style with the opening night ceremony of the week-long event taking place Sunday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. in the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
Highlights of the ceremony will include the lighting of the torch to signify the opening of the games as well as a salute to the 11 Israeli athletes who were murdered by terrorists at the 1972 Olympics.
It has been a tradition since the first 1982 JCC Maccabi Games in Memphis that the Munich 11, as the murder of the Israeli athletes are called, are remembered at every opening ceremony of the JCC Maccabi Games.
11 of the athletes competing next week have been selected by delegations to participate in the memorial.
Fred Berger of Wilton Manors, brother of David Berger (an Olympic weightlifter, who was one of the murdered athletes, will speak during opening night about the legacy of his brother.
"The murder of my brother is and always will be painful, but I prefer everyone to remember David in a positive way and I will be talking about all the wonderful moments in his life," said Berger.
Also, the deaths of four Australian Jewish athletes killed by the collapse of a faulty bridge they were marching on during the 1997 Maccabiah Games in Israel will be acknowledged at the ceremony.
With the BB&T Center having a seating capacity of 20,737, organizers of the event are hoping for many South Florida residents to join the 1,600 athletes and artists from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Poland and many American cities for a memorable opening night.
Broward County residents will be entitled to attend opening night free of charge, including free admission to all the athletic competitions, ArtsFest and the closing ceremony that will take place from Aug. 10-13.
Spectators need to be credentialed through the event website at www.fortlauderdalejccmaccabi.com for security reasons to attend opening night and all activities from Aug. 10-13.
"Opening night will be so emotional, as our community is galvanized by the two years of planning for the event," said Craig Konhauser, one of the organizers of the ceremony.
"The moments will be special, as we thank everyone for coming and to acknowledge the thousands of volunteers who have worked with their hearts on their sleeves for over two years in planning the week."
Dale McLean, who coordinates many of the fan interaction activities at Miami Heat games at American Airlines Arena, will be responsible for the many colorful visual images that will be on the arena screen during the opening ceremony including the lighting and passing of the torch by the many delegations of artists and athletes.
"The torch will be both visually exciting with the ignited flame, as well as the emotional bonds created by participating in lighting the torch," said McLean.
"The feelings that the artists and athletes have of being from six nations, but also being together for one week as a force of unity, will be captured in the opening ceremony."
McLean will be supervising the pyrotechnics, with the flame being lit into a nine-foot high caldron at the center of the arena.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D) of Weston, representing her district in Broward County, will be among many South Florida politicians expected at the ceremony, including the mayors of each of the Broward County cities.
Cello players Emil & Dariel will be playing their music during the opening ceremony that will also include the marching parade of the 1,600 athletes, representing the many JCC delegations from across the country and five other nations.
Prior to the opening ceremony, the delegations involving athletes, artists, coaches and families of the participants will be treated to a VIP reception and, following the ceremony, an informal meet and greet dinner for coaches and chaperons at a local hotel.
The athletic competitions in baseball, basketball, competitive dance, lacrosse, softball, soccer, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball begin on Aug. 10 with the finals taking place on Aug. 13.
The souvenir program book, given out to spectators at the opening ceremony, will list the times and venues of the athletic events.
The ArtsFest begins workshops on Aug. 10 to culminate in the ArtsFest showcase on Aug. 13.
Detailed coverage of the athletic competitions and ArtsFest will be in next week's Jewish Journal.
To register for a credential to attend the opening ceremony at BB&T Center, 1 Panther Pkwy, go to www.fortlauderdalejccmaccabi.com or call 954-501-2015.