History of the Games: Maccabiah expands to include disabled athletes

maccabiah 88 (photo credit: )
maccabiah 88
(photo credit: )
The "Bar Mitzvah" Maccabiah brought 4,400 athletes to Israel from 46 countries, included several notable Eastern European nations with the Cold War finally over. Yugoslavia, Lithuania, the former Soviet Union and Hungary all sent their first delegations to the Games. Fifty-seven athletes came from the former Soviet bloc, along with teams from Cuba, South Korea and Singapore. There were 32 competitive sports to participate in, including some events for disabled athletes for the first time. A special tribute was held for handicapped sports at the opening ceremony, with Hanoch Budin - a disabled IDF veteran who won two swimming medals at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul - lighting the torch. Security concerns stemming from the outbreak of the Intifada did not deter participants, although it did deter tourism as a whole. While general tourism was at its lowest point in many years, the Maccabiah brought tens of thousands of people to Israel. The thirteenth Maccabiah was not entirely without incident - a bus travelling from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was hijacked by a terrorist and driven down an incline. Among the fatalities was the daughter of a Maccabiah participant. The Israel Broadcasting Authority provided complete coverage of all Maccabiah events with a daily program called "Maccabiah Today" to focus on the various events, even the ones not popular among Israelis. Israel came on top in the medal count with 97 gold medals, 82 silver and 79 bronze, followed by the United States and Canada. 24 countries took home medals in 1989 and 22 Maccabiah swimming records were broken, including 17 by the Israelis.