JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
The Maccabiah Games got under way Wednesday, as investigators questioned the contractors responsible for building the bridge whose collapse brought tragedy to the games.
The games had been called off for 24 hours, as a day of mourning was observed for the two Australian athletes — Gregory Small, 37, and Yetty Bennett, 50 – – who died after the bridge they were on collapsed Monday during the opening ceremonies.
Athletes wore black ribbons in memory of the two when the competition began Wednesday.
Scores of other athletes, most of them from Australia, were also injured.
Having decided to remain in Israel and participate in the games, the Australian delegation took part in the opening day’s competition, which included basketball, volleyball, soccer — and bridge.
“When we told people what category we are competing in, we thought they might think it was a sick joke,” said one member of Australia’s bridge team, which tied with Britain.
The Maccabiah organizing committee decided to let four members of Israel’s national squad play on the Australian soccer team, to fill in for athletes who were injured Monday.
As the investigation into the collapse got under way, attention focused on the officials involved in the construction of the temporary wood and aluminum metal bridge.
A lawyer for the two contractors who built the bridge said his clients were only following the directions given by the engineer who approved the project.
The engineer, in turn, told police that when he inspected the bridge and gave the go-ahead, he made it clear that no more than 100 people should be on the bridge at a time and that someone should stand at the end of the bridge to control the flow of athletes.
The police and organizers of the Maccabiah Games said they never received any such directive.
A video shot just before the bridge collapsed showed the athletes crossing from a parking lot over the Yarkon River, heading toward the opening-night parade in the stadium.
It showed that there was no one on hand to count the number of people crossing the bridge.