The History of the Games: Bridge disaster overshadows 15th Maccabiah

The 15th Maccabiah, held in Israel's 50th anniversary year, was eagerly anticipated by both spectators and the 5,500 athletes who came from 50 different countries. However, the mood quickly became somber when, during the opening ceremony, the temporary footbridge built over the Yarkon River collapsed as the national delegations were walking across. Dozens of members of the Australian delegation were injured and athletes Greg Small, Yetty Bennett, Elizabeth Sawicki and Warren Zines all died at the scene or later on from injuries sustained in the incident. As athletes were rushed to hospitals, the next day's events were canceled. The games resumed the following day on a revised schedule, with full participation from the remaining Australian delegation who decided to continue in honor of their dead and injured teammates and were applauded by their competitors and the spectators every time one of them took the field. Micky Berkowitz, voted the all-time greatest Israeli sportsman by the Israeli public, carried the Maccabiah torch into the stadium during the opening ceremony with Kerri Strug, the American gymnast who won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics, while Israel's first Olympic gold medalist, Yael Arad, lit the torch at the Tombs of the Maccabees in Modi'in. In the end, the United States took home the most medals, followed by South Africa, England, Israel and Australia.