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President János Áder on Tuesday evening welcomed contestants participating in the 15th European Maccabi Games, a championship of Jewish athletes. “We Hungarians are always ready to root for our athletes … We are proud of the many identities thriving in the Hungarian team, under the Hungarian flag. We are proud of our Jewish compatriots whose achievements boost our shared confidence,” Áder said in his speech opening the event. Hungarian Jews have been present in Hungarian sports history from the start, he said: Ferenc Kemény contributed to organising the first modern-day Olympics and another Hungarian Jew, the swimmer Alfréd Hajós, won the country’s first gold medal there.  The Maccabi Games were conceived in the same spirit, Áder said: to celebrate performance and to create a community through games. Áder wished the participants “noble fights and memorable moments”.

Motti Tichauer, chairman of the European Maccabi Confederation, told the event that the first European Maccabi Games were held in Prague in 1929 but during the past 90 years none of countries in the region hosted the games so it has only now returned to its central-eastern European roots.

The opening event featured some seventy performers and the flame was lit by world and Olympic champion chess player Judit Polgár and five-time Olympic champion gymnast Ágnes Keleti. The central venue of the games will be the Ludovika Campus in the Orczy Gardens where daily awards ceremonies will be held, as well as exhibitions, concerts and film screenings. The 15th European Maccabi Games will run through next Wednesday. Some 5,000 participants including 2,311 athletes arrived from 42 countries for the games.