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In the wake of tragedy, sports always act as a palliative by giving us excitement and pleasure. It provides us a much needed distraction, but we often tend to forget the dark side of sports. The disasters in sport can take severely ugly forms ranging from miniature riot to excruciating physical damage with mass death. The second anniversary of Boston Marathon bombing has just passed with another anniversary in May 4 of 1949 Superga air accident which claimed the lives of the whole Turin professional soccer team, tragically known as Il Grande Torino.
We have enlisted the top 10 worst sports disasters in the world. All of these incidents are well remarkable in the history of sports. The departed souls will be remembered forever as long as the disaster marks it’s place in the history.
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Top 10 Worst Sports Disasters in the World:
10. Happy Valley Racecourse fire, 1918
The sport disaster took place on 28th February, 1918. The Happy Valley racecourse in Hong Kong, China was engulfed in an enormous fire which claimed as many as 570 people. Just a few seconds after the fire broke out, the large areas of racecourse stands and booths were collapsed. The exit root became blocked and many people were trapped inside the fire. It was supposedly the main reason of that much of death toll. However, the exact number of deaths was never known as a huge number of people were burnt with such intensity that only remnants were found in the incident place.
The exact origin of the catastrophe is still unknown. But, it was suspected that people engaged in preparing meals on cooking ranges in the sheds nearby must be accidentally caught fire and resulted in one of the worst sports disasters in the world.
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9. Boxing Champion Michael Watson incident, 1991
21 September, 1991, was remembered as a Black Day in the history of British Boxing. The incident took place, when a rematch was taken place between an admirable English boxer, Michael Watson and the unpopular Chris Eubank. Notably, Watson lost the super middleweight title earlier that year to Eubank. As the people demanded, three months later, the rematch was held. The boxing match was going fair and fine until 11th round and Watson was visibly outscoring Eubank. Then, suddenly something went wrong and Watson started falling back taking blow after blow onto his face. As the game progressed into the 12th round, poor Watson walked straight into Eubank’s punch several times and eventually he could hardly lift his gloved hands. The match referee finally called for a stop smelling the trouble, but that didn’t restrain Watson collapsing in the ring.
After going through 6 major brain surgeries and 40 days of coma, Michael Watson became the survivor of that fatal incident. Later, he sued the British Boxing Board for lack of proper immediate medications. He ultimately won the damage compensation of £1 million.
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8. Death of Hansie Cronje, 2002
The cricket world became speechless on 1 June 2002, when South Africa former captain Hansie Cronje died in a plane crash near George airport along with two pilots. However, two years before the accident, Hansie was accused for match fixing conspiracy. After a subsequent enquiry by the King Commission, he got himself banned for life from all kinds of cricketing activity. The plane crash following the banishment immediately sparked off the conspiracy theories. The plane crash may have been pre-ordained to eliminate Hansie Cronje, who could be a threat for some high-profile people involved in that match fixing. The exact truth is still unknown to the cricket-loving people.
The death of Hansie Cronje is still a mystery, yet more unfortunate than anyone in the cricket. It has been ranked at no. 8 in the list of top 10 worst sports disasters in the world.
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7. The Heysel Riot, 1985
On 29 May, 1985, the fans of Juventus and Liverpool-the two biggest clubs in Europe-went literally at war during the European Cup final in Brussels, Belgium. The escaping Juventus fans were pressed against a collapsing wall by the Liverpool hooligans, before the start of the game. Around 39 people were reportedly dead and over 600 were injured in that disaster.
Following Heysel Stadium tragedy, all English football clubs were placed under an indefinite ban by UEFA from all European tournaments (lifted in 1990-91), while Liverpool was excluded for an additional three years banishment. The sports disaster was described as “The darkest hour in the UEFA competitions’ history”.
6. Ghana Football Tragedy, 2001
A football match was emerged as a tragedy when a Ghana league game between ‘Asante Kotoko’ and ‘Hearts of Oak’ ended into a bloodshed on 9 May, 2001. The home side Hearts of Oak scored two late goals and claimed their victory by 2-1. The troubles was anticipated and extra security measures were ensured accordingly. But the disappointed Kotoko fans started to throw plastic chairs and bottles onto the pitch after the match. Police was to fire the tear gas in order to control the situation, but panic ensued among the people and resulted in death of 127 people due to compressive asphyxia.
After the official investigation, the Accra police department was blamed for over-reacting with indiscriminate firing of plastic bullets and tear gas. Some dishonest officers were also accused and punished accordingly.
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5. The Colourful 11 Disaster, 1989
The Surinam Airways Flight 764 was departed from Amsterdam to Paramaribo on June 6, 1989 carrying 187 passengers, including a group of Dutch Surinam footballers known as “The Colourful 11”. At the moment of landing, the no. 2 engine of the plane stuck a tree at the height of approximately 25 meters above the ground. When the right wing of the plane stuck another tree, the plane began to roll and impact the ground. 176 passengers were incidentally dead including the the colourful 11 in that aircraft disaster.
Footballers like, Ruud Gullit, Aron Winter, Frank Rijkaard, Bryan Roy, and Regi Blinker were luckily denied permission to travel in that flight. These Dutch footballers survived the disaster by the grace of God.
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4. Kurt Jenson and Others, the curse of Doping, 1960—
It was even before the Lance Armstrong incident. The illegal use of performance enhancing drugs had brought an enormous dishonor to the cycling world. Kurt Jansen, a Danish cyclist was accused of illegal doping back in 1960 Rome summer Olympics. The accusation came, when he suddenly collapsed to the ground due to an amphetamine overdose. The sports world was shocked again when the doping incidents came into lime light in 2003. Eight eminent cyclist aged between 16-34 years died of heart attack within the 13 months time span. Thorough investigations found that the EPO drug being the culprit behind all these deaths.
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3. The Death of Ayrton Senna, 1994
Ayrton Senna was considered one of the most successful Formula One drivers in the sports world. Thus, the death of Ayrton Senna was the saddest moment people could ever imagine. It was the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix where Senna lost his control of his car while turning a corner. He crashed into a sidewall after skidding off the race track. Ayrton Senna hurt his head in that fatal race accident, when a piece tie rod penetrated his helmet visor just above the right eye. Senna died due to fatal brain injuries and ruptured temporal artery. The death of Ayrton Senna was probably the greatest lose in the Formula One’s history ever. The tragic event is inducted in our list of top 10 worst sports disasters in the world.
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2. The Munich Olympic massacre, 1972
The 1972 Munich Olympic tragedy will never be forgotten by the world and pray such disaster never occurs again. A group of Palestinian terrorist named “Black September” took 11 Israeli athletes into hostage demanding the release of 234 criminals detained in Israeli jails. The terrorists named the attack as ‘Biram’ and ‘Iqrit’ (after two villages). A rescue attempt was initiated instantly which was failed disastrously, leaving all 11 Israeli athletes, 1 German police officer and 5 of the terrorists dead.
Later, the Israeli government launched two major military operations namely, “Operation Spring of Youth” and “Operation Wrath of God” to hunt down and kill the rest of the terrorists involving the Munich Olympic massacre.
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1. The Superga Tragedy, 1949
The tragedy took place on 4 May, 1949. The Torino AC football team along with their coaching staff, sports journalists and plane crew were returning from a friendly match. The Fiat G.212 aircraft of Italian airlines lost its control during landing and crashed into the retaining wall at the back of the Basilica of Superga. All 31 people on board were reportedly dead. The day of May 4th is still remembered as “the day when Italian football died”. On the funeral day, nearly a million people took to the streets of Turin and gave a final farewell to the players. The following year, the Italian national team traveled to Brazil by ship to join 1950 FIFA World Cup.
The disaster shook the Italian national team as the 10 of the dead Torino players were playing on the national side. It took Torino as long as 27 years to overcome the damage. The Superga Tragedy is undoubtedly the worst sport disaster in the world. We all pray to God to rest their souls in peace.
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