Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The worst sporting riot

The world’s worst sporting riots did not happen in some citadel of modern football -even though more than 300 did die in a running battle over a disallowed goal at a match between Argentina and Peru in Lima in 1964, and another 70 people were killed on the terraces in Buenos Aires in 1968.

No, the most disastrous came in ancient Constantinople between supporters of two rival chariot racing teams – the greens and the blues. The fans had generally been creating mayhem - breaking into houses, robbing and murdering, and they got even worse when the Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great tried to clamp down. At the games held 1,477 years ago today, on January 13, 532, it looked as though Justinian might be deposed. The crowd hurled insults at him, and for the next two days, mobs roamed the city burning down buildings. In the end, by means of the emperor’s fearsome cavalry and some judicious bribery, order was restored, but not before an estimated 30,000 people had been killed.

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