1997 Maccabiah Games

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15th Maccabiah
1997 Maccabiah logo.jpg
Nations participating33
Debuting countries Kyrgyzstan
Athletes participating5,500
Opening cityRamat Gan
Officially opened byKerri Strug
Main venueNational Stadium
14th Maccabiah 16th Maccabiah  >

The 1997 Maccabiah Games are remembered for being marred by a bridge collapse that killed several participants.

The 15th Maccabiah had more than 5,000 athletes from 33 countries competing in 36 sports.

New sports for the Games included beach volleyball, ice hockey, and taekwondo.


The Maccabiah Games were first held in 1932.[1] In 1961, they were declared a "Regional Sports Event" by, and under the auspices and supervision of, the International Olympic Committee.[2][3][4]

Bridge collapse[edit]

The Games were marred by the collapse of the bridge, causing some athletes on the bridge who were marching into the Ramat Gan Stadium in Tel Aviv for the Opening Ceremony to fall into the highly polluted Yarkon River; the polluted waters were considered a major factor in the deaths and injuries.[5] Four Australians, Greg Small, Elizabeth Sawicki, Yetty Bennett, and Warren Zines, were killed when the bridge, supporting the Australian delegation, collapsed. Sixty others were injured.

After the accident, both the Opening Ceremony and the Games themselves continued with spectators in the stadium not given any information as to what had happened. The ceremony was delayed, and then only the torch lighting aspect of the ceremony took place. Spectators became aware that something was wrong when none of the scheduled events took place, including the march of the athletes, and when they listened to the radio. Many inquests were completed into the collapse of the bridge by both Israeli and Australian authorities and Yoram Eyal was found guilty of criminal negligence.[6] To commemorate the tenth anniversary of the disaster, on July 20, 2007, a ceremony was held at Tel Aviv's Hayarkon Park.[5]

Notable medalists[edit]

Michael Halika of Israel who won the 800m Freestyle and the 400m Individual Medley, among a total of 5 individual and 2 team gold medals.

American 1992 Olympian Tamara Levinson earned 5 golds in rhythmic gymnastics. David Bluthenthal won a gold medal in basketball with Team USA.

Adam Henrich and Michael Henrich played hockey for Team Canada.[7][8]

Participating communities[edit]

The number in parentheses indicates the number of participants that community contributed.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "The 20th Maccabiah Games: A brief History (Part 1)," The Canadian Jewish News.
  2. ^ Helen Jefferson Lenskyj (2012). Gender Politics and the Olympic Industry. Palgrave Macmillan.
  3. ^ Mitchell G. Bard and Moshe Schwartz (2005). 1001 Facts Everyone Should Know about Israel p. 84.
  4. ^ "History of the Maccabiah Games". Maccabi Australia.
  5. ^ a b "Bridge Disaster Commemorated", Dateline World jewry, World Jewish Congress, September, 2007
  6. ^ Ha'aretz 29 June 2005 Maccabiah official convicted over bridge disaster accedes to Australian demand By Charlotte Halle
  7. ^ "Maccabi Team Canada". www.jewishindependent.ca.
  8. ^ "Peres hosts Maccabiah's Olympian athletes" | The Times of Israel