Israeli Athletes Turn In Medals
Jan. 05, 1999
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Four Israeli Maccabi champions turned in their medals Tuesday, demanding that the president of the sports organization step down during an inquiry into a lethal bridge collapse.
World Maccabi Union President Ronald Bakalarz, about to testify before a special Israeli parliamentary inquiry, appeared angry and frustrated as the athletes laid their medals on the table in front of him.
On July 14, 1997, athletes were marching across a specially built footbridge into the Tel Aviv stadium during the opening ceremony of the Maccabiah, also known as the Jewish Olympics.
The bridge collapsed under the Australian and Austrian teams, dumping them into the Yarkon River. Four Australian athletes died, and 64 people were injured from the fall or made ill from the polluted waters.
Debby Marcus, 57, returned a trophy she received as one of Israel's top athletes during the nation's first 50 years. Her son Boaz, 21, handed over two bronze medals he won for lawn bowling in the 1997 games.
Mrs. Marcus, who won track medals in the 1961 and 1965 Games, gripped her small statue by the Maccabi emblem, turned it upside down, and told The Associated Press, ``If my son had been on that bridge, I would have used this to kill the person responsible.''
Chairman Micha Goldman, the only committee member present when the one-hour session began, declared that Maccabi Union leaders, including Bakalarz, must assume responsibility for the bridge collapse.
Bakalarz said Goldman had already prejudged the case. He complained that by allowing the athletes to return their medals, Goldman had ``allowed a display of showmanship for the media,'' and called the committee proceedings a ``kangaroo court.''