Vancouver Riot and 5 Other Infamous Melees in Sports History

By Stepney, Chloe | The Christian Science Monitor, June 16, 2011 | Go to article overview

Vancouver Riot and 5 Other Infamous Melees in Sports History


Stepney, Chloe, The Christian Science Monitor


Passions are high. Crowds are big. Alcohol is consumed. That can be the toxic mix that sparks rioting at or after big sporting events - a phenomenon that can feed on itself by drawing in those who are at first bystanders, experts say. The history of fans turning rabid is a long one, with a new chapter added Wednesday night in Vancouver, where street riots erupted toward the end of pro hockey's Stanley Cup final. No deaths were reported, but more than 100 people were injured, according to the Toronto Sun.Here are five notable riots linked to sporting events through history.

Passions are high. Crowds are big. Alcohol is consumed. That can be the toxic mix that sparks rioting at or after big sporting events - a phenomenon that can feed on itself by drawing in those who are at first bystanders, experts say. The history of fans turning rabid is a long one, with a new chapter added Wednesday night in Vancouver, where street riots erupted toward the end of pro hockey's Stanley Cup final. No deaths were reported, but more than 100 people were injured, according to the Toronto Sun.

Here are five notable riots linked to sporting events through history.

#5 Nika riot, 532

More than 30,000 citizens of ancient Constantinople (now Istanbul) died in January after a chariot race in the Hippodrome between the Blues and the Greens, two of the four prominent factions in the empire. After the race, Emperor Justinian accused some faction members of murder and sentenced them to death. Citizens reacted by invading the emperor's palace after a second chariot race in the Hippodrome, where thousands of faction members died in the five-day riot. Throughout the rioting, people yelled, "nika," Greek for victory or conquest.

Richard Ginsburg, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of "Whose Game Is It, Anyway?" says such actions mimic primal and tribal behavior. "When your tribe gets beaten by another tribe, it can be very threatening," he says.

#4 Heysel disaster, 1985

During the European Cup Final in May 1985, Liverpool (of England) played Juventus (of Italy) at the Heysel Stadium in Brussels. A stadium wall collapsed after Liverpool fans charged through police toward Juventus fans. Thirty-nine fans died and more than 350 were injured. The incident led British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to ban all English football teams from competing for two years in Europe.

Large crowds inspire fans to be more daring and to take part in group activities they would not normally engage in, says Adam Naylor, sports psychology director at the Boston University Athletic Enhancement Center. …

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