Video shows Russia drawn twice at ‘Jewish Olympics’ – as event’s ‘legal adviser’ looks on
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Video shows Russia drawn twice at ‘Jewish Olympics’ – as event’s ‘legal adviser’ looks on

Maccabiah Games insist "Russia" should have been named "Olim" – indicating competitors born in different countries who made aliyah.

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

Video footage of the Maccabiah Games draw – attended by senior members of the organisation and a ‘legal’ invigilator – confirms two Russian teams were officially announced to compete at next month’s event.

Organisers have denied Russia was ever lined up to take part in the Games, which begin in Israel on 12 July, after Jewish News revealed the women’s beach volleyball draw led to them being in the same group as Ukraine.

A Maccabiah Games spokesperson said the volleyball group draw had been an “administrative error”. Newspaper reports in Israel also said Russia had pulled out of the Maccabiah Games four months ago – long before the draw.

But footage of the draw for Maccabiah 21, which took place on 1 May, sent to Jewish News, confirms two Russian teams were named as taking part, without clarification.

During the draw, which has since been removed from the official Maccabiah Games website, two male presenters from the Maccabiah World Union introduce the event.

Prior to the draw commencing it is announced that a legal adviser is present to oversee the draw “to make sure it is in a right and proper way”.

Just over 48 mins into the live draw, the under 18 boys Basketball 3 x 3 group is announced. It confirms Russia’s involvement, alongside teams from Hungary, USA, and Israel.

Less than one minute later, the presenter announces the women’s beach volleyball team. Russia, and drawn alongside teams from Germany, USA, Israel, and most noticeably Ukraine.

Organisers say the word “Russia” should have been replaced before the draw with the word “Olim” – indicating a team made up of competitors born in different countries who have made aliyah. This error was not clarified during the draw or in the months that followed.

A Maccabiah spokesperson told Jewish News on Friday: “Russia waived its participation in the Maccabiah about four months ago. This is a fact. For the first time, a delegation of olim who immigrated to Israel from the various countries, mostly from Russia, was assembled to take part in the Maccabiah.

“In the draw, instead of calling it an immigrant/olim delegation, the names originally indicated the countries the olim originated from. The administrative error therefore was not changing the name in the draw. Mistakes happen despite the Maccabiah’s many efforts to minimise them as much as possible.”

This year’s tournament sees more than 60 countries taking part.

Since Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, Russia has been banished from all global sporting events, in a protest at the president’s actions.

In March, a Maccabiah Games source confirmed to Jewish News that there was hope Russia could still compete in the Jewish sporting tournament. It was said at the time that the Maccabiah organisation was non-political.

The Maccabiah Games goes on until 26 July and is shown live on Israeli television.

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