Five sporting events hit by terrorist attacks

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Five sporting events hit by terrorist attacks

Joel Omotto 07:00 - 10.04.2024

Security agencies in London, Madrid and Paris have been on alert after threats by ISIS to attack this week’s Champions League ties but what other sporting events were marred by terrorism?

Arsenal and Real Madrid were forced to stay vigilant after terror group ISIS threatened an attack the Emirates Stadium and Santiago Bernabeu ahead of their Champions League quarter-final first leg ties against Bayern Munich and Manchester City respectively on Tuesday.

ISIS launched a threat against each of the four venues that will host Champions League football this week with Paris Saint-Germain hosting Barcelona while Atletico Madrid will be at home to Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday.

That has seen heightened security in London, Madrid and Paris to avert any possible attacks. The fears bring back memories of some of the sporting events that were hit by terror attacks.

Belgium vs Sweden

In October 2023, the Euro 2024 qualifier between Belgium and Sweden was abandoned at half-time with the score 1-1 after two Swedish nationals had been shot dead.

The spectators who had been making their way to Brussels’s main stadium Stade Roi Baudouin never made it to their seats.

They were shot, fatally, some 90 minutes before the scheduled kick-off. It is believed they were targeted for being Swedish.

The gunman, killed by police bullets the following morning, knew their nationality by their clothes, Sweden colours, worn with enthusiasm to a fixture that should have been about shared, patriotic pride – and only about that.

On learning about the incident, both teams agreed to call off the match and UEFA decided there would be no replay with the two teams awarded a point each.

France vs Germany

In November 2015, there were attacks in Paris by gunmen and suicide bombers who hit a concert hall, a major stadium, restaurants and bars, almost simultaneously, and left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.

The first of three explosions occurred outside the Stade de France stadium on the northern fringe of Paris where France were playing Germany in an international friendly.

A man wearing a suicide belt was reportedly prevented from entering the stadium after a routine security check detected the explosives. According to the Wall Street Journal, the man backed away from security guards and detonated the explosives.

The bomber and a passer-by were killed. The game, attended by President Francois Hollande, was being broadcast on TV. After a second man detonated his suicide vest outside a different stadium entrance at 21:30, the president was rushed to safety.

A third suicide bomber blew himself at a fast-food outlet near the stadium at 21:53 and a decision was taken not to abandon the France-Germany match for fear of panic as the crowd left the stadium. The German and French players slept overnight in the arena, deeming it safer than being outside.

Man United vs Bournemouth

In May 2016, terror fears threw the final day of the Premier League season into chaos after Manchester United’s match with Bournemouth was abandoned because of an ‘incredibly lifelike’ suspect bomb.

Stadium security staff at Old Trafford found a mobile phone with wires leading from it. The phone was reportedly attached to a gas pipe in a men’s toilet cubicle on floor 5 of the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.

Bomb disposal experts raced to the ground after a ‘Code Red’ alert was sounded over the Tannoy at 2.43pm and players warming up left the field.

Greater Manchester Police advised match officials to abandon the game and to begin evacuating the sun-soaked ground, which was packed with 80,000 fans celebrating the final day of the season for the Reds’ clash with Bournemouth.

Boston Marathon bombing

On Monday April 15, the 128th edition of the Boston Marathon will take place with Kenyans Evans Chebet and Hellen Obiri seeking to defend their titles.

However, on exactly the same day 11 years ago, a somber mood engulfed the event following a terrorist attack.

Brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev planted two homemade pressure cooker bombs that detonated near the finish line of the race 14 seconds and 210 yards (190m) apart. Three people were killed and hundreds injured, including 17 who lost limbs.

The explosions took place nearly three hours after the winning runner crossed the finish line, but with more than 5,700 others yet to finish. Kenya’s Rita Jeptoo had won the women’s race while Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa claimed the men’s crown.

Sri Lankan cricket team

On March 3, 2009, the Sri Lankan cricket team was on its way to the Qaddafi Stadium in Lahore, Pakistan, when 12 gunmen ambushed the athletes and a van full of umpires and a referee at a traffic circle near the stadium.

Initial news accounts said eight people died in the attack—including six police officers and two bystanders—and at least six athletes were injured.

Reports from the Associated Press indicated the gunmen were armed with submachine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, pistols, 25 hand grenades, and plastic explosives. Some of the gunmen fled the scene in motorized rickshaws.

The Sri Lankan squad was one of the few international cricket teams that had decided to compete in matches hosted by Pakistan. Teams from India, Australia, and Britain had previously refused to travel to Pakistan, stating security concerns, according to The New York Times.

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