Kansas City Maccabi Games attract 800 contenders

KANSAS CITY — The 1997 JCC Maccabi Youth Games brought 800 competitors from around the country here this week for athletic competition, fellowship and community service.

From the Municipal Auditorium downtown, where a spirited opening ceremony was held, to the Jewish Community Campus, which became a beehive of activity as the games' headquarters, to the inner city, where the teens did some of their volunteer work, Maccabi athletes made their presence felt in both Kansas and Missouri.

They were running, throwing, dancing, jumping, bowling and playing chess. They painted walls, interacted with mentally disabled people and cleaned up park land. And they socialized with their peers in a boisterous fashion befitting their teen years.

Hundreds of Kansas Citians opened their homes to the visiting delegates from the Bay Area, Baltimore, Chicago and St. Louis.

Former Sunnyvale resident and swimmer David Spires, one of 10 local team members, scored big with six gold medals, two silvers and one bronze.

He made the Bay Area delegation in 1995 in Los Angeles and 1996 in St. Louis.

Among crowd favorites: the local team, and the 10-person Israeli delegation.

"You athletes are a community," said games Chairman Bob Shaw at opening ceremonies. "You will walk out as citizens of the world enriched by this Maccabi week."

Rabbi Morey Schwartz, president of the Greater Kansas City Rabbinical Association, led a moment of silence for the four Australian athletes who died earlier this summer as a result of the collapse of a bridge at the Israeli Maccabiah Games.

The word "remember" appeared on the screen, and Graham spoke of the 11 Israeli athletes who died in the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich at the hands of terrorists.

"Twenty-five years is a long time," said Graham. "Long enough to forget. But we will not forget."