Maccabiah Games Welcome 9,000 Athletes

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JERUSALEM, Israel -- The 19th Maccabiah Games, also known as the Jewish Olympics, begins Thursday evening with opening ceremonies at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium.

Jerusalem is hosting this year's games for the first time, with 12 events taking place in the nation's capital.

Another first this year is the first official delegation from Cuba, with 44 athletes, coaches and chaperones from the communist state. 

The Maccabiah Games have become the third largest international athletic competition worldwide, after the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup.

This year, Israel is hosting more than 9,000 athletes from 78 countries, 20 of which are taking part in the games for the first time.

Athletes will compete in 42 different venues, with seven new competitions (ice hockey, archery, handball, shooting, badminton, open water swimming, and bridge) as well as Paralympic events in swimming, wheelchair tennis, table tennis and basketball.

The 2013 games are not only the largest to date but also the costliest with a 200 million shekel ($55 million) budget.

The equestrian events -- grand prix jumping and dressage -- will take place next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Kibbutz Yagur in northern Israel on the slopes of Mt. Carmel.

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