The sixteenth Maccabiah, held in 2001, was the first since 1950 to have fewer participants than its predecessor. Held in the midst of the second Intifada, the atmosphere was tense as the 2,200 athletes arrived from 46 countries.
Initial participation expectations were much higher, with organizers assuming numbers would increase from the previous Games, as they had almost always done. However, the spike in terrorist attacks prompted many cancellations - so many that some delegations proposed the 16th Maccabiah be postponed a year or even canceled.
Extensive meetings with security officials led to a decision to go forward with the Games under heightened security measures.
The opening ceremony was held in Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem for the first time and attracted an unprecedentedly large TV audience. Israeli President Moshe Katsav opened the Games with Prime Minister Sharon, the prime minister of Romania and other international leaders, Israeli cabinet ministers, and many international Jewish dignitaries in attendance.
While the total number of participants was still relatively large, about half of the athletes in the Games were from Israel. Medium-sized delegations also came from Great Britain, Russia, Germany, France, Turkey, the United States, Canada and Argentina. However, the international presence was noticeably diminished in 2001 amid the country's security situation.
The standout athlete at 16th Maccabiah was swimmer Lenny Krayzelburg of the United States, who won three gold medalists in the 2000 Sydney Olympics and set a number of new Maccabiah records in the pool.