BERLIN, July 28 (UPI) -- The 10-day European Maccabi Games, an all-Jewish sports event, began Tuesday in Berlin venues built by the Nazis for the 1936 Olympics.
The irony is not lost on the 2,300 athletes from 36 countries, participating in 19 sports. The event will include festivities, parties and sport, part of the Maccabi movement, which traces its history to 1895 and a local sporting club in Turkey, formed by Jews barred from other sports organizations.
"People told me they never could imagine setting foot in Germany because their parents and grandparents were sent away from there," said Alon Meyer, 41, a Frankfurt businessman and chief of Maccabi Germany, whose father fled Nazi Germany. "Now these people are coming back to see the changes (and participate in) the biggest Jewish event ever held on European ground."
Among the venues to host the free-admission events is the iconic Oylmpiastadion, where Adolf Hitler famously watched the country host the 1936 Olympics. A torch-lighting ceremony Tuesday will include Nancy Glickman, whose father, Marty Glickman, later a famous sports broadcaster, was dropped from the United States' 400-meter relay team; he and teammate Sam Stoller, both Jews, were replaced at the last minute in a move viewed as an attempt by the United States to keep from offending Hitler if the team won. Led by Jesse Owens, it won.
Ann Stoller, a descendant of Sam Stoller, is also part of the U.S. delegation.
"It just increases the significance of everything we do, using sports to build Jewish pride and perpetuate Jewish continuity," said Tonja Magerman of the U.S.' organizing committee.
The Maccabi Games come at a time of increasing European anti-Semitism, and security is tight at the event.
"Security is a big issue," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said in a radio interview, "but not one we should be scared stiff about."