The Australian delegation to the Maccabiah at the dedication of a Jewish National Fund forest near Ben Shemen in memory of the 4 athletes who died in the bridge collapse at the 15th Maccabiah in July 1997
(photo: Joe Malcolm)

Nine days of sports, fellowship and Jewish solidarity drew to a close on Monday, July 23, as the 16th Maccabiah concluded with a colorful ceremony held at Jerusalem's Sultan's Pool. The ceremony was graced by the presence of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Minister of Science, Culture and Sports Matan Vilnai, Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, and other dignitaries including Jewish Agency chairman Sallai Meridor.

According to revised statistics released by the Maccabiah Organizing Committee 5,281 Athletes and Delegates participated in the 16th Maccabiah, of these 3,981 from abroad.

Prime Minister Sharon, speaking at the concluding ceremony proclaimed: "Hereafter all Maccabiah Games will take place in Jerusalem." He thanked the participants for coming and added "You will take the Maccabiah flame with you." He expressed hopes that they will kindle the flame by coming to Israel. "We need you," he said.

Jewish Agency Major Supporter of Maccabiah
The Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organizations are major supporters of the Maccabiah, which brought Jewish athletes from 43 countries together to compete in 26 different sports under the banner "One People-One Dream." The Jewish Agency was instrumental in bringing some 350 sportsmen (including Olympic champions) to the event from the Former Soviet Union and Eastern Union.

The Agency also participated in a parallel Junior Maccabiah (for 12 to 16 year olds), which included sightseeing and cultural evenings and discussions. The Jewish agency also participated in an awards ceremony for Maccabi leaders from throughout the world, and in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the 1994 Buenos Aires Jewish community Center bombing.

The Maccabi World Union is a constituent member of the World Zionist Organization. Prior to the ceremony, WZO and Jewish Agency Chairman, Sallai Meridor told Maccabi leaders, " By holding the 16th Maccabiah, you have sent a message to the capitals of the world, saying 'that the Jewish People is one!'" The Jewish Agency's Aliyah Department presented each Maccabiah participant with a kit describing Aliyah possibilities in Israel.

The Ceremony
The Concluding Evening began with a multi-media dance and song performance, "Together to the Light," which included dancers in Biblical costumes, drummers and fire jugglers. Scenes of Israel were projected on three giant spheres. Other performances included those of the ethnic Nash-Didan and Arabesque dance ensembles with a medley of songs in Aramaic on the theme of Jerusalem (against the backdrop of symbols of the three great faiths and a light show on the walls of the Jerusalem citadel), Israeli singer David D'Or , IDF entertainment troupe accompanied by British singer Talya Greenberg who had been a Maccabiah table-tennis champion. And rap dance performance "Forever Young" rounded out the evening.

Science, Culture and Sports Minister Vilnai, told the athletes said, "Not everyone who competed can win a medal, but you can all say "We were here'." Echoing his remarks, Zwebner, chairman of the Maccabi Organizing Committee, said the "real winners were the thousands of Jewish athletes who participated and the Maccabi Federations." Ehud Olmert evoked the Maccabi spirit, the spirit of the Jewish People, which is the spirit of Victory." One of the most moving moments was, when a young boy in Maccabi Youth Movement uniform, arrived by helicopter. He carried a gas lamp, lit from the flames of the Giant Maccabi Torch, which had just extinguished in Teddy Stadium. The boy presented the flame to Mr. Uzi Zwebner. A color guard of Maccabi Youth Movement Cadets presented the Maccabiah banner to Zvebner for safe keeping, and the event concluded with the singing of Hatikvah and with a colorful "Happening of the Future" which featured a performance of drummers, dancers and gymnasts in futuresque costumes, as fireworks illuminated the night sky of Jerusalem.

16th Maccabiah Statistics According to new, revised statistics issued by the Organizing Committee of the 16th Maccabiah, 5,281 sportsmen and women and delegates participated in the 16th Maccabiah. Of these, 3,981 came from abroad. This number is considerably higher than opening estimates.

Among the largest delegations from abroad were the United States(387), Canada(300) Argentina (160) Brazil (115), France (138) Great Britain(160) Mexico Russia (110), Argentina(67) and Germany (54) were among the largest delegations. Smaller delegations included those of Belarus, the Republic of China (who participated for the first time), Azerbaijan, Holland and Switzerland. Israel fielded the largest delegation: 1,300 sportsmen and women and delegates.

Summary of Medals Won at the 16th Maccabiah

Country Gold Silver Bronze
Israel 96 74 74
USA 21 23 30
Russia 14 11 11
Ukraine 3 9 0
Argentina 3 0 1
Mexico 2 3 2
France 2 2 2
Australia 2 0 3
Hungary 1 6 9
South Africa 1 2 3
Brazil 1 1 5
Great Britain 1 0 2
Kazakhstan 1 0 0
Turkey 1 0 0
Belarus 1 0 0
Venezuela 0 2 2
Canada 0 1 8
Germany 0 1 3
Austria 0 1 0
Georgia 0 1 0
Azerbaijan 0 1 0
Chile 0 0 1
Croatia 0 0 1
Sweden 0 0 1

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