The Sixteenth Maccabiah: 5761
Intensive preparations and the registrations received from abroad indicated that the 16th Maccabiah would set records both for participant numbers and sporting achievements. However, the sudden upsurge of terrorism culminating in the Dolphinarium outrage in Tel Aviv (June 2001) just before the Maccabiah, caused a steady erosion in indications of participant numbers, leading to proposals by major Delegations for a year’s postponement and even threatening cancellation of the Games. An emergency meeting of Maccabi leaders was held (June 2001) and high-level Israeli Government members who emphasized the importance of holding the Maccabiah and promised extraordinary security measures resulted in a decision to proceed without delay.
Amidst tight security precautions, the Opening Ceremony on 16th July, held for the first time ever at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, was a spectacular show that attracted an unprecedented TV audience. President Katsav opened the Games in the presence of Prime Minister Sharon, the Prime Minister of Romania and other VIP’s from abroad, Israeli Cabinet Ministers, the Diplomatic Corps and many leaders of World Jewry, a powerful display of solidarity with Israel at a difficult time in its history. The Maccabiah Torch was carried into Teddy Stadium by Israel’s star pole-vaulter Alex Awerbuch and the specially-constructed Flame was lit by Israel’s triple gold medallist swimmer at the Sydney 2000 Paralympics Keren Leibovitch.
Despite the terrorist threat, many large Delegations participated, bringing 2,200 athletes from 46 countries and 1,100 from Israel. Amongst other European Delegations, big numbers came from Britain, Russia, Germany, France and Turkey; the USA, Canada and Argentina were impressively represented. Triple Sydney 2000 gold medallist and world record-holder Lenny Krayzelburg (USA) was the standout of the Maccabiah swimming competition otherwise dominated by Israelis. Russian gold medallists at Sydney, Maria Mazina and Sergei Charikov, were the stars of an excellent fencing tournament, and the Judo and Tennis tourneys in particular, were of outstanding quality. Once again, the Junior Maccabiah, centered on Zichron Ya’acov was a great success.
The Closing Ceremony at Sultan’s Pool – attended by the Prime Minister and Jerusalem Mayor Olmert – was the grand finale to an outstanding Sixteenth
Maccabiah, expressing the pride of all who participated.