The Ninth Maccabiah: 5733
The Ninth Maccabiah took place one year after the Munich massacre of eleven Israeli athletes, coaches and judges and played an integral element in the celebrations of the 25th Anniversary of the State. At the Opening Ceremony, tribute was paid to the fallen athletes, a special yizkor written by Chief Rabbi Goren was chanted, and eleven torches were lit in their memory. As Tal Brody carried the torch into the stadium, he was joined by two survivors of the massacre, Israeli walking champion Dr. Saul Landy and sprinter Esther Roth Shachamorov.
Approximately 1,500 athletes arrived from 26 countries, including Costa Rica and Spain. Turkey, who did not send a delegation, would not participate for the next 24 years. Of the 335 strong Israeli delegation, several score were immigrants; the 38 from the USSR excelled primarily in boxing, wrestling, fencing and weight lifting. The athletes competed in 23 events, including an interesting new sport -- squash.
This extremely well-run Maccabiah was the most carefully guarded of all the Maccabiot. The sports achievements, however, were rather disappointing. In track and field, heretofore ׂthe queen of events,׃ there were few top-level athletes. In swimming events, which usually attracted large crowds at the Maccabiot, the Americans ׂseemed rather tired,׃ notwithstanding the good all-star team and the Gold Medals they won. The Israeli delegations performance was poor, particularly in individual events such as track and field and swimming. The tennis matches, on the other hand, were on a relatively high level due to the superior performance of the Americans and the Australians. Israelis experienced a few moments of satisfaction during the basketball games, thanks to all-star Tal Brody, Barry Leibowitz and promising young Mickey Berkowitz. The Israeli all-star basketball team won a fine victory against the United States (86:80). The basketball games took place at the up-to-date, improved facilities in Yad Eliahu Stadium, the Holon enclosed stadium and Beit Barbour (Tel Aviv.)
One of the reasons for the deterioration in the performance of Jewish atheletes throughout the world was the inactivity in the regional Confederations in between Maccabiot; in some cases they had completely broken off contact with Maccabi World Union centers. Many Maccabi clubs settled into athletic inactivity and Jewish athletic competitions in the Diaspora were almost non-existent. As a result, most of the delegations at the Maccabiah were comprised of youngsters who had begun training, quite superficially, shortly before the Maccabiah. For them the Games represented ׂa trip to Israel׃ and it was precisely in this sense that the Ninth Maccabiah succeeded: as a convocation of youngsters from all over the world and an opportunity to promote aliya.
In order to encourage the next generation of Maccabiah participants, the organizers held a Youth Jamboree, the first of its kind, where American and Jewish youth mingled. From the standpoint of Jewish identification, the Maccabiah was indeed a success. The athletes were housed in five different places: Kfar Maccabiah, the Ramat Aviv Hotel, Seminar Hakibbutzim, Wingate Institute and Hakfar Hayarok. They participated in Jerusalem Day celebrations, toured the Old City and visited the Western Wall, the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Knesset, Mt. Herzl and Ammunition Hill. Each of the 120 athletes who headed the delegations was presented with a commemorative album of the Western Wall.
As opening day drew near, the Ramat Gan Stadium was completely renovated. The lighting was magnified to nine times its former brightness, the Presidential booth was redecorated and the grass groomed. For the first time, a special entrance was built for the press. The Maccabiah budget was four million Israeli pounds and the Games concluded with a deficit of 200,000 to 300,000 Israeli pounds.
As always, there were outstanding athletes, South African tennis player Elana Close, for example, who left the prestigious Wimbleton Competitions in the middle in order to participate in the Maccabiah and Kenyan track and field champion in the 1968 Mexico Olympics, Amos Bewitt. In addtion, there were: the Swedish swimmer Anita Zarnovitsky who participated in the competitions with her twin brother, Bernot; the American track and field star, Carry Kering (Gold Medal decathlon competition winner in which she broke the Maccabiah record and Gold Medal winner in the pole vault competition); Gary Cohen who set a new Maccabiah record for the 10,000 meter race and the outstanding Dutch athlete, Wilma Van Gol, who took the Gold Medal by outstripping Esther Roth Shachamorov in the 100 meter dash at a demonstration racing exhibition. Despte the fact that her hopes for an Olympic medal were dashed at Munich, Esther Shachamorov continued to prepare herself for the Montreal Olympics. Mark Spitz was unable to participate in the Maccabiah as a Guest of Honor (He had retired from sports after the Munich Olympics) due to a prior commitment. His sister Nancy, however, did the family proud by winning medals in her own right. The United States delegation came away with 76 Gold Medals, the Israeli 66. The Closing Ceremony ended with the traditional soccer game, this time between the Israeli and Uruguayan all-star teams (1:2).
The fledgling Israel Broadcasting Authority, headed by Dan Shilon and Alex Giladi (only one channel, remember) was praised for its coverage of the Maccabiah. This was the largest production that the Israel Television had undertaken since Munich. Approximately 400 journalists, photographers and radio and television personnel from all over the world joined them in covering the Games.