Seven of the Most Dangerous Sporting Venues in the World

The England cricket team began their tour of Bangladesh this week with two notable absentees drawing more headlines than the travelling team. Eoin Morgan, the limited-overs captain, and opening batsman Alex Hales both ruled themselves out of the tour due to concerns over security.

England captain Eoin Morgan will be staying home this winter. Credit: Ben Sutherland via flickr

Their fears are not unfounded. Terrorism has twice struck south Asian cricket in recent years. In 2009, 12 gunmen fired upon a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, injuring six members of the squad and killing six policeman and two civilians.

The next year, two bombs exploded outside the M. Chinnaswamy Stadium in Bangalore before an Indian Premier League game which Morgan was due to play in, injuring 15 people and blowing off a portion of an outer wall of the stadium.

Sometimes the threats within sporting arenas can be as perilous as the conflicts outside them. Here are seven of the most dangerous sporting locations athletes have competed in.

1. The Western Front

On Christmas Day 1914, British and German soldiers played impromptu games of football in no man’s land. The Christmas Truce became one of the most mythologised events of the Great War.

Armistice Day football match at Dale Barracks between german soldiers and Royal Welsh fusiliers to remember the famous Christmas Day truce between germany and Britain PCH
Football provided a brief respite from the horrors of the trenches in the Great War. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Accounts of the Christmas Truce make reference to a number of matches taking place on the day, with some incorporating a fictionalised version of events captured in a story by Robert Graves. Historians dispute many of the tales, but enough evidence remains to suggest that games did indeed take place between the opposing armies.

2. Saigon during the Vietnam War

The Christmas Truce was not the last football match to take place in a war-zone. In 1967, the Dallas Tornado football club brought their seven-month world tour to Saigon, at the height of the Vietnam War.

While Dallas Tornado competed in Saigon, their countrymen were protesting US imperialism at home. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The American team drew their first match against a Vietnamese select sides 1-1. A month after the 2-2 draw in their second and final game with Club Saigon, the Tet Offensive began.

3. The Old Nürburgring

Germany’s Nürburgring has been the site of 68 driver fatalities since 1928, when Čeněk Junek became its first victim after crashing his Bugatti Type 35B. The forest surrounding the circuit led Formula 1 icon Sir Jackie Stewart to call the 12.7 miles and 73 corners of twisting track the “Green Hell”.

Some fans feel the current incarnation of the track is unworthy of the old name, and refuse to to call it the Nürburgring. Credit: Walter Koch via Wikimedia Commons

In 1976, Niki Lauda’s Ferrari caught fire during the final race at the old circuit, leaving his face permanently scarred by the burns. The track has been altered significantly since then in the interests of safety, but 3-12 drivers are still killed there every year.  Despite the dangers, for €24 members of the public can race a lap of the track in any car of their choice.

4. Whistler Sliding Centre

Luge is often cited as the most dangerous event at the Winter Olympics. At the 2010 Games, the death of Georgian competitor Nodar Kumaritashvili made the Whistler Sliding Centre the most infamous track in the sport.

OLY1008-HolcombTwoManHeatOne3511copy.jpg: Former U.S. Army World Class Athlete Program bobsled pilot Steven Holcomb posts the sixth-fastest time of 51.89 seconds with Curt Tomasevicz aboard USA I in the first heat of the Olympic two-man bobsled competition Saturday at Whistler Sliding Centre in British Columbia. The U.S. sled stands in fourth place after two of four heats, the last two of which will be run Sunday at 4 p.m. PST. Photo by Tim Hipps, FMWRC Public Affairs
The high speeds and gravitational forces on the Whistler track leave little time to correct errors. Credit: Tim Hipps via Wikipedia

The 21-year-old smashed into a steel pole at the Whistler Sliding Centre after his sled struck the inside of the track’s last turn and flipped at 89 mph during his final training run. The track was already known as one of the world’s fastest and most dangerous following a number of earlier crashes. His death led organisers to add an extra 30 metres of wall to the end of turn 16 and make changes to the ice profile.

5. Cape Solander

On the southern side of Sydney’s Botany Bay, big wave surfers ride some of the most dangerous waves in the world at Red Bull’s Cape Fear event in Cape Solander. Waves reach six metres in height before breaking over a reef barely two feet deep and within just ten metres of barnacle-covered rocks.

The invitation-only competition divides 16 competitors into pairs to compete for the judges’ scores based on their skill and the size and difficulty of the wave. In 2016, organisers waited until the last minute to open the event after a weekend storm had destroyed houses and shops just metres away from the waves.

The event was cancelled by the afternoon of the first day after three surfers were taken to hospital following heavy wipe outs on the waves. Among them was Justin Allport, who was knocked out underwater before a jet-ski arrived to rush him to safety.

6. La Bombonera Stadium

The rivalry between Argentine clubs Boca Juniors and River Plate is among the most bitter in world football. The city of Buenos Aires is beset by violence between the opposing fans whenever their clubs play. Occasionally, even the players can become victims.

Criminal gangs control much of the violence at La Bombonera. Credit: Steve Newton via Wikimedia Commons

Boca Juniors ended the first half of their 2015 Copa Libertadores second leg match against River Plate with the scores at 0-0 on the night, but down 0-1 on aggregate. Before the second half at their La Bombonera home stadium, a Boca fan made his own contribution to the tie’s outcome.

When the River Plate players emerged from the tunnel, they were sprayed with a homemade mixture of pepper and acid. The match was abandoned, with four River players taken to hospital with impaired vision. Boca were thrown out of that year’s Copa Libertadores and ordered to play their next four international home matches behind closed doors.

7. Snaefell Mountain Course

The road-racing street circuit has been the site of the Isle of Man TT since 1911, making it the oldest motorcycle circuit still in use. It is also the world’s deadliest racetrack. As of 2016, 252 riders had been killed racing it.

Compact lanes leave riders little room for error on the course. Credit: Jonathan Camp via Wikimedia Commons

Motorcycles reach speeds of up to 180 mph on the single country lanes surrounded by stone walls and steep hills. The deadliest year for the course was 2005, when it claimed the lives of 11 people between the TT race and the Manx Grand Prix. Since World War II, just two years have passed without a single death on the course, and the second in 2001 was only because the race was cancelled due to the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.


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