The Eleventh Maccabiah: 5741
The Eleventh Maccabiah in 1981 was dedicated to the late Pierre Gildesgame (Z׃L), President of the Maccabi World Union and Chairman of the International Maccabi Committee, who had been killed in an automobile accident earlier that year. 3,150 athletes representing thirty three countries participated, including contingents from New Zealand, Bermuda and Puerto Rico who arrived for the first time. Two Egyptian observers came for the water polo tournament. This time the thirty two events included new sports such as sailing, softball and rugby. Boating competitions were reintroduced after a thirty one year lapse.
This was a Maccabiah with few athletic pretensions; its avowed purpose was to serve as a sporting ׂingathering of the exiles. The Jewish Agency Department of Immigration and Absorption evening events and an Immigration Expo 1981 were held at the Diplomat Hotel in Tel Aviv. In light of the troubling trend towards emigration from Israel, this Maccabiah was expressly intended as a magnet to draw former Israeli athletes back home. The Maccabiah organizers were relatively successful in accomplishing this; several athletes from abroad began official immigration procedures, including one black American basketball player who chose to remain in Israel following the Games.
Over three million shekels had been invested in renovating the Ramat Gan Stadium, making it possible for the first time in Maccabiah history to begin the impressive Opening Ceremony in the evening. The highlight of the evening was the freestyle jump executed by students of the Israeli Defense Forces Paratroopers School; the darkened stadium field gradually lit up as the last paratrooper landed on the ground. At a signal fifty thousand spectators lit flares. During the processional, eighty four year old Joseph Yekutieli rode in on a jeep flanked by four generations of Maccabeans from the Ben Dror family of Petah Tikvah.
More than ever before, the Eleventh Maccabiah reflected the character of Jewish sports over the last decades -- a certain decline in the performance and in the number of participants in the classic sports (track and field, boxing, weight lifting) and a concomitant rise in the number of athletes participating in specifically ׂAnglo-Saxon׃ sports such as hockey, golf, squash, badminton, cricket, softball, lawn ball and tennis.
Fourteen new Maccabiah records were set in track and field, sixteen in swimming, and eight in the various marksmanship competitions. Squash, karate, judo and wrestling contests were held in new rings and courts built at Kfar Maccabiah.
Despite the fact that there were no competitors of international standing, swimming races were the focal point of the competitions. The Israeli swimming team narrowed the gap between Israeli and American all-stars.
The Israelis improved and broke eighteen Maccabiah records at the Tel Aviv Swimming Pool, sweeping nine Gold Medals, as opposed to fourteen for the Stars and Stripes. Leading Israeli swimmers included Lior Birkin and Madar Rubinstein (women) and Amit Daniel, Ron Kerman, Yoram Kochavi and Yaron Elati (men). Outstanding among the Americans was Andy Zaltzman, winner of the 100 meter freestyle.
Track and field competitions were held in the National Sports Center in Hadar Yosef. This time Israeli athletes successfully challenged the previous supremacy of foreign athletes, the Americans in particular, in their respective sports. Israelis who distinguished themselves were: Yair Karmi, record breaker in the 10,000 meter race; Aryeh Gamliel, Manny Rosenberg, and Yoav Meckel (sprint) and Zvi Lauder (long distance running). The American athlete Brian Mendstein set impressive records in the 400 meter hurdle race (52.07 seconds) and decathlon. The British athlete Gary Wilson (Gold Medal for the 100 meter race) was crowned ׂThe Fastest Jew in the World.
Outstanding tennis players were Shlomo Glickstein who ranked forty ninth in the world at the time, and Lonni Gilbert, who competed at the Tenth Maccabiah and ranked seventy second in the world on the list for women. While the performance level in the individual sports was outstanding, in team sports (soccer, basketball, volleyball and water polo) it left much to be desired. The Israeli all-star basketball team, basically an American team with Israeli tagalongs, was defeated in the playoffs. And for the first time in Maccabiah history, the Israeli soccer team did not reach the finals: the United States vs. South Africa, refereed by Israeli Avraham Klein.
All in all, 1,960 awards were presented -- 650 Gold Medals, 35 large shields of David (for team sports ) and 108 small shields (for competition involving individuals and teams). The total budget for the Maccabiah was around $1,750,000. Approximately 8,000 tourists arrived in Israel for the Games, adding six to seven million dollars to the State's coffers.
Once again the organizers held an exhibit of children's paintings from nineteen countries, this time in Heichal Hatarbut (Mann Auditorium) in Tel Aviv. The impressive Closing Ceremony held in the Sultan's Pool in Jerusalem, included a moving audio-visual presentation projection, lighting up the walls of the Old City, accompanied by Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s emotional plea to the athletes to carry out the commandment to live their lives in Israel.
- Leading Israeli swimmers included Lior Birkin
- Madar Rubinstein (women)
- Amit Daniel
- Ron Kerman
- Yoram Kochavi
- Yaron Elati (men)
- Andy Zaltzman
- Yair Karmi, record breaker in the 10,000 meter race
- Aryeh Gamliel
- Manny Rosenberg
- Yoav Meckel (sprint)
- Zvi Lauder (long distance running)
- The American athlete Brian Mendstein set impressive records in the 400 meter hurdle race (52.07 seconds) and decathlon
- The British athlete Gary Wilson (Gold Medal for the 100 meter race) was crowned The Fastest Jew in the World
- Outstanding tennis players were Shlomo Glickstein who ranked forty ninth in the world at the time
- Lonni Gilbert, who competed at the Tenth Maccabiah and ranked seventy second in the world on the list for women.
Joining the Party: Countries who participated for the first time
- New Zealand
- Puerto Rico
- Two Egyptian observers came for the water polo tournament.
Say Hello: New Sports Competition
- Boating competitions were reintroduced after a thirty one year lapse.