LUZHNIKI'S DARK SECRET

Author: Sergei Mikulik and Sergei Toporov

A 1982 Soccer Tragedy Revealed

LUZHNIKI'S DARK SECRET. (By Sergei Mikulik and Sergei Toporov. Sovetsky sport, July 8, pp. 1, 4. 3,200 words. Abstract:) Do you know why no soccer games are played at Luzhniki Stadium in late October? Official explanations about the "poor condition of the grass" are irrelevant. The fact is that the officials are afraid of seeing flowers on Luzhniki's soccer field, flowers in memory of those who died there.

It was cold and sleeting on Oct. 20, 1982, when Moscow's Spartak played the Dutch team Haarlem. Despite the weather, some 10,000 diehard fans showed up for the game. Luzhniki's administration decided that all the spectators could fit in one section; that would also make it easier to keep order.

The game was not going well for Spartak, so many fans, anxious to get out of the cold, decided to leave early. As soon as the first spectators began to descend the stairs, the police formed a living corridor and "helped" them along (in other words, pushed them).

Anyone who has been to Luzhniki knows that when leaving the upper deck, spectators first come to a landing between the first and second stories, and from there a stairwell leads directly to the street. There are many of these stairwells at the stadium. But on Oct. 20, only one was unlocked. One single narrow passageway for several thousand people.

As the people streamed down, slipping on the icy steps, a roar of delight went up inside the stadium: Twenty seconds before the final whistle a Spartak player scored. The people who had already reached the bottom naturally wanted to know what had happened. So they turned around.

At that moment the roar of delight turned into one of horror. Remember that only one exit was open. Up above, more and more people continued to be pushed into the dusky passageway. Down ...

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