The Israeli Prime Minister, Mr Benjamin Netanyahu, set up a commission of inquiry to investigate the collapse.
Australia athletes will still compete in the Games, sometimes referred to as the Jewish Olympics. The announcement came during a 24-hour suspension of competition to mourn the deaths of the Australians.
Despite the suspension, some Australians and Israelis expressed anger that last night’s opening ceremony went ahead while the rescue operation was still under way.
Mr Isi Liebler, chairman of the governing board of the World Jewish Congress and former president of the Australian Jewish Community, condemned the decision.
“I am shocked, outraged and embarrassed at the extraordinary lack of sensitivity by those who decided to proceed with the artistic and dancing program… at the same time they were looking for survivors …” he said.
But the Mayor of Ramat Gan, Mr Zvi Bar, defended the decision to proceed, saying riots would have broken out if the estimated 50,000 spectators had been sent home.
The tragedy occurred about 8pm in fading light as about 370 members of the Australian team — the third-largest at the Games — followed the Austrian team across the bridge.
About 80 Australian competitors were on the bridge when it started to give way, among them the entire cricket team. Michael Klinger, 17, the youngest person to score a century in Australian grade cricket, was among those caught.
His brother, Danny, 23, said: “We were in the middle. We all went down and tried to get out as quickly as possible. There was a lot of panic. I didn’t find Michael until 10 minutes later.”
Danny and Michael, of East Kew, escaped unscathed.
Mr Louis Platas, head of the Australian delegation, also escaped unharmed.
“It was like an earthquake. It seemed like minutes but it was obviously only seconds,” he said.
“I was thrown upside down and I did not know if the steel would come down on top of me. Fortunately I was able to crawl to one side.”
Mr Jason Steinberg, the media liaison officer, said: “It was just pandemonium. The juniors were just freaked out. They were trapped in the crux of the split.”
Mr Mike Suzman remembers “a bang” and saw people sliding into the water on the ruins of the bridge.
“It was horrific,” he said. “The bridge was made of wood and the walk was covered with aluminium sheeting. After the bridge snapped at the centre, the aluminium sheets slithered down on to the athletes who were struggling in the water, further adding to their distress.”
When darkness fell, the area was a scene of flashing lights on police cars and ambulances.
Israelis in their homes were shocked to see the television coverage switch alternatively between the site of the accident and the joyous singing and dancing of the opening ceremony.
There was a short fireworks display, a celebration of 100 years of Zionism and a large gospel choir singing Hallelujah.
Finally, at 9.40pm, with many officials beginning to squirm, the chief organiser, Mr Yoram Eyal, closed the event, with a belated speech to the crowd acknowledging the tragedy.
Mr Netanyahu said that when he heard of the tragedy he told the organising committee that the ceremony should stop.
“After it was determined that someone had been killed, I left the ceremony and sent a request to the organising committee to stop it and this was done,” he said.