Maccabiah Official Convicted Over Bridge Disaster Accedes to Australian Demand

Yoram Eyal says he won't be seated in president's box during opening ceremony of the Games.

Charlotte Halle
Charlotte Hallé
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The Maccabi World Union official convicted of criminal negligence in organizing the 1997 Maccabiah Games has acceded to the demand of Australian Jewish groups not to be seated in the president's box during the opening ceremony of this year's games.

Yoram Eyal, who performed six months' community service for his part in the bridge collapse that killed four Australian athletes and injured 70 others during the opening ceremony of the 1997 Maccabiah, told Anglo File he had requested not to be seated with the dignitaries and senior Maccabi officials at the opening of the Games next month "to respect the wishes of the Australian delegation and families."

Eyal's announcement that he will not be part of the official party that athletes salute on entering the Ramat Gan Stadium follows a demand by Australian Jewish groups that Maccabi World Union (MWU) ban him from attending the opening ceremony in an official capacity.

The Australians are angry that, despite his conviction, Eyal has been reinstated as a member of the MWU executive and also manages the Maccabiah Village in Ramat Gan.

This week President of the Zionist Federation of Australia Ron Weiser welcomed Eyal's announcement that he would not be present in any official capacity at the opening ceremony of the Games on July 11. "We believe this is the proper and moral decision for him to have made," Weiser told Anglo File.

MWU, however, continues to maintain Eyal's right to attend the opening ceremony in a formal capacity. In a statement this week, a spokeswoman for the group said: "Mr. Yoram Eyal is a member of the Maccabi World Union executive, and in that capacity, like all members of the executive, is invited to the Maccabiah 2005 opening ceremony at Ramat Gan National Stadium on 11th July." She added that the MWU executive "will respect any decision made by Mr. Eyal in regard to his attendance."

Last week Weiser said Eyal's presence at the opening ceremony of the games would be "the final insult to the memories of those who died, to those who were injured and to Australian Jewry in general."

He said that if Eyal did participate in the opening ceremony, the 520-strong Australian delegation would "seek a way to express its displeasure."

During the Games, none of the Australian competitors will stay at the Maccabiah Village because of Maccabi Australia's refusal to put its athletes under Eyal's responsibility.

In his statement to Anglo File, Eyal also said: "The most important thing, in my eyes, is the fact that despite the horrible tragedy, the Maccabiah continues on bigger and stronger than ever, back at the Ramat Gan Stadium and with the largest Australian delegation ever."