LIVE BLOG

19th Maccabiah Games Kick Off in Jerusalem

The 'Jewish Olympics' begin Thursday, as some 9,000 athletes representing more than 70 countries get ready to compete in 42 sports.

The 19th Maccabiah Games kicked off Thursday night with a gala opening ceremony at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium that was attended by thousands of spectators. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres were set to take part in the event to honor the 9,000 athletes representing 71 countries, the largest number of competitors ever at the 'Jewish Olympics.'

The ceremony includes the traditional parade of athletes and lighting of the Maccabiah torch, as well as performances by popular musicians from Rami Kleinstein and Harel Skaat to newer talents such as the Grammy-winning, Israeli-born violinist Miri Ben Ari; the Canadian-born singer Kathleen Reiter, winner of "The Voice Israel" and "The X Factor" (United States) finalist Carly Rose Sonenclar.

Click here for our special Maccabiah section, including timetable, news and travel tips

Live blog

11:30 PM Ceremony ends.

11:22 PM The Maccabiah fire is lit by American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist Aly Raisman. Impressive pyrotechnic display begins as Rami Kleinstein sings Esh ("fire").

11:18 PM Peres ends speech. Maccabiah torch enters the stadium carried by Israeli Olympian Ariel "Arik" Ze'evi.

11:11 PM Israeli President Shimon Peres addresses the audience. "The Maccabis showed that we can defend ourselves when needed and pursue peace when possible."

11:06 PM Carly Rose Sonenclar runner-up on the second season of the American version of The X Factor. Sings "Hallelujah"

11:03 PM Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat gives a speech lauds his city's great achievements.

11:00 PM British Prime Minister David Cameron address the Maccabiah in video address. Talks about Yosef Yekutieli, who conceived of the games.

10:57 PM U.S. President Barack Obama addresses the crowd in video address. Stresses the special link between Israel and the U.S.

10:53 PM Musical portion begins with "Somewhere Over the Rainbow."

10:50 PM Amitzur Shapira, a Munich Olympics athlete, reads "Izkor" in memory of fellow athletes that were killed in the 1972 Summer Olympics.

10:44 PM Maccabi World Union Chairman Yair Hamburger gives speech. Calls on the enlightened world to abandon double standards and stand on the side of truth.

10:42 PM Head judge reads judges' oath.

10:41 PM Scheduling changes because Netanyahu needed to leave. Finishes his speech.

10:37 PM Netanyahu: "After winning medals and winning achievement. Go tour Israel. This is your country. I'll tell you the truth. I hope you and your families decide, after this visit, to come and live here."

10:35 PM Netanyahu gives a shout out to the bigger delegations and then mentions the smaller ones. Then talks about the spirit of the Maccabis.

10:32 PM Netanyahu translates himself to English. "This year in Jerusalem, Israel's undivided and eternal capital capital."

10:30 PM Netanyahu addresses the crowd."This is the first time the Maccabiah opens in Jerusalem."

10:28 PM Miri Ben-Ari plays her fabulous hip-hop electric violin.

10:26 PM In skintight white dress, Israeli "The Voice" winner belts out religious song, with dancers with white Bratslavi hats and Israel flag-arms.

10:25 PM Crowd sings HaTikvah, giant balloons released into sky, fireworks.

10:22 PM Lights go out, elaborate pyrotechnics as a countdown starts.

10:18 PM Israeli past-Olympians march in together with special needs participants holding Israeli flag.

10:08 PM Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres stand and applause the Israeli delegation. 2,270 Israeli athletes are competing this year - the biggest delegation ever.

10:01 PM Last delegation to file in - Israel.

10:00 PM Small Swiss delegation makes its way along.

9:55 PM Russian team in white shirts files by, followed by Swedish team in blue and yellow.

9:49 PM Kazakhstan's delegation walks in with strange tall blue hats, followed by a big Canadian team in red and white.

9:47 PM Colombia and Cuba walk on by.

9:37 PM A spirited Spanish team in red and yellow marches by sorting fedora-like hats.

9:34 PM A small Moroccan team walks in.

9:31 PM A single Mongolian delegate marches alone.

9:27 PM Zimbabwe's single-member delegation walks by, followed by a Greek delegation.

9:25 PM Holland's delegation in orange shirts and white gloves parades by.

9:23 PM After Denmark and South Africa, the Indian team walk in.

9:20 PM Large German team goes by in red shirts and yellow caps.

9:14 PM Great Britain's delegation come in waving small Union Jacks.

9:06 PM Teams starting with Hebrew letter Alef done. Next delegation - Bolivia.

9:04 PM  Large American delegation - 1,100 athlete strong - in baseball caps walks by.

8:59 PM Relatively large Argentine delegation tangos in.

8:56 PM El Salvador's three athletes file in, followed by a single athlete from Albania.

8:50 PM Maccabiah athletes begin entering the stadium. First up, two athletes from Uzbekistan, followed by a small delegation from Austria.

8:30 PM  Maccabiah opening ceremony begins in Jerusalem.

7:25 PM Heavy traffic reported in the roads leading to Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium. (Israeli Radio)

Andrew Esensten