Jul 15, 2009
Classic Israeli bureacracy at the Maccabiah
The Maccabiah used to be a fun event, on a small scale, where Jewish athletes could compete against each other. The Maccabiah was small, and interest in it could be found mostly among the non-native Israelis - all the people who have made aliyah finally got to see some of their favorite sports played in Israel. Israelis pretty much knew nothing about the Maccabiah.
This year the Israelis and the Maccabiah board did a tremendous job of marketing. they made it into a real large scale event, to the point that one could really consider it a small-scale Olympics, as it was originally intended to be. The Opening Ceremony was reminiscent of the Olympics Opening Ceremonies, the games are played to greater fanfare, the news is disseminated to the public, etc.
I even heard last night on the radio a broadcaster talking about how she, and the guy sitting talking with her concurred, had never before heard of the Maccabiah and had no idea what it was when they started to make the news regularly a short while ago. She called in a "Sports expert" to explain it all on the show. 10% of the country tuned in to watch the Opening Ceremony. The exposure the Maccabiah is experiencing is unprecedented.
All because of some smart marketing.
The funniest thing, especially considering how much effort they put in to marketing the Maccabiah this year and making it a success is an incident that happened yesterday.
This incident is classic Israeli bureaucracy - it seems there was a problem with Yarkon Field not having applied for a business license. Instead of helping to get it done, or letting the games be played and deal with it afterwards (leagues play there all year round for a few years already, including the short-lived Israel baseball League 2 years ago and the Israel Softball Association), the police raided the field in the middle of a softball game and put an end to play.
they raided the field as if they were raiding the meeting point of the biggest mafia dons in the country. The biggest problem the police have to deal with is an illegal softball game, putting everything they worked for to make the Maccabiah a success into jeopardy?
On Tuesday morning, just as the second inning of an Israel-Mexico contest was about to begin, members of the Petah Tikva Police suddenly turned up and put an immediate stop to the game, as well as canceling the remainder of the Maccabiah softball schedule until further notice.
Evidently, the police were enforcing a stoppage order issued by the Petah Tikva Municipality following a decision late Monday to deny the application for a business license for the Baptist Village.
While the tournament organizers were aware that the venue lacked the license, they were under the impression that it was just a matter of formality in processing the application and that the license, or at least a temporary respite to allow the games to go on as scheduled, would be issued.
"This is not a case where we did not prepare properly," Maccabiah public relations director Yaron Michaeli told The Jerusalem Post.
Ami Baran, executive director of the Israel Softball Association - and manager of the Israeli men's Maccabiah squad - said the situation could turn into a real debacle if the entire softball event is scrapped, especially with 10 teams from abroad having traveled to Israel specifically for the tournament, and the average foreign player paying in excess of $5,000 to participate.
"The real shame is that we've had four years to prepare for this, and it could all be ruined by a bunch of bureaucratic nonsense. It is doubly strange because the Baptist Village has hosted two previous Maccabiahs, plus [it] was one of the main venues for the Israel Baseball League in 2007 - all without requiring any sort of business license," he said. "I really hope this can get fixed before it is too late."
Hopefully that will get resolved quickly, and they can move on to play the games....
In better news, Israel is offering special packages to encourage athletes in the Maccabiah to make aliyah.