On 20 July, 1997, the Australian team for the Maccabiah Jewish games began marching across the footbridge leading to the stadium for the opening ceremony
in Tel Aviv
. Excitement turned to tragedy
when the bridge
cracked in the middle and slowly collapsed. Some team members fell into the heavily polluted waters of the Yarkon River and others were pushed on top of each other.
The whole event was caught on television
and Israelis watched on as the images on their screens alternated between the joyous opening ceremony and the devastation of the bridge collapse. In Australia
, people watched in dread as family members and friends struggled to break free. Eventually the Prime Minister
, Benjamin Netanyahu
, ordered organisers to stop the ceremony.
Desperate rescue attempts and resuscitation efforts did not prevent four deaths and 64 people from injury. Five team members were listed as critical.
Years later, the families of the dead in Australia
, as well as the most of injured athletes themselves, still await compensation
for their suffering.