Let the Games begin and let our pride show

This is it: After years of planning, prepping and praying, the JCC Maccabi Games, which run Aug. 2 to 7, have finally arrived in San Francisco. Jewish teen athletes from around the world are descending on our fair city, ready to meet, compete and have the time of their lives.

Let the games begin!

As we have chronicled over the months, the logistics of mounting these games could have overwhelmed a lesser team of organizers.

Consider the stats: more than 1,500 teens (including 267 from the Bay Area), 500 hosting households, nearly 1,000 volunteers managing the events, and a million and one details to iron out. Also keep this in mind: These are the first truly urban games in JCC Maccabi history.

Games director Jackie Lewis, along with co-chairs Randi Fields and Howard Fine, supervised a superb team of organizers. Together they lined up the host families, secured world-class venues (such as AT&T Park, the Cow Palace and the University of San Francisco) and designed a meaningful program for the competitors.

If there was a medal for strategic planning, this team would take the gold.

This is also an opportunity for participating Jewish community agencies and institutions to take a bow. As chief sponsor of the games, the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco has done a masterful job coordinating with partnering agencies, including city government and USF, which will serve as the hub for the games.

Richard Goldman, the beloved Bay Area philanthropist and longtime supporter of the JCC Maccabi Games, is serving as honorary chair, and he, too, deserves praise for contributing $750,000 to the event through the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

But we reserve our biggest cheers for the Jewish 12- to 16-year-olds taking part in the games. Coming from 40 different communities around the country, as well as from Israel, Guatemala, Mexico and the U.K., these young athletes are ready to compete in 14 sports.

Moreover, they come ready to delve deeply into Jewish values. Between competitions the kids will take part in Days of Caring and Sharing, rehabilitating 17 neighborhood parks throughout the city. They will also be a part of the greenest games ever for the JCC Maccabi Games, with every effort made to enact environmentally friendly practices throughout the event.

It’s common knowledge that participation in sports helps young people develop skills that may last a lifetime. Blending that with the best of the Bay Area Jewish community, the 2009 JCC Maccabi Games deliver a moment of pride for us all.