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'82 Moscow Soccer Tragedy Is Exposed

July 10, 1989|ANDREW KATELL | Associated Press

MOSCOW — A Soviet newspaper exposed this weekend the world's worst soccer tragedy in which 340 fans were killed at a 1982 match in Moscow. The magnitude of the incident was covered up until now.

Sovietsky Sport, the official newspaper of the Soviet government's Sports Committee, said police pushed spectators down an icy staircase at Lenin Stadium--the main site of the 1980 Summer Olympics--on Oct. 20, 1982.

The newspaper said authorities covered up the number of deaths. It said it was exposing the tragedy now "so as not to forget people who loved sports until the grave."

The incident had been reported before, but the deaths were reported outside the Soviet Union as more than 20 and no reports of deaths were released within the country until last April.

Some parents whose children failed to return had to search hospitals for bodies and no soccer matches have been held in Lenin Stadium at the end of October because authorities are afraid survivors will place flowers on the field as a sign of protest.

A lengthy front-page investigative story in the newspaper on Saturday said parents believed there were as many as 340 deaths at the stadium in Moscow's Luzhniki section. A follow-up article Sunday repeated the figure.

"According to our information--and no other information has been provided to the public--a human mincer at Luzhniki on that day pulverized 340 lives," the article said. "In the twinkling of an eye, interior troops and police cordoned off the stadium, and also quickly surrounded the tragedy."

The account said that because only 10,000 tickets had been sold to the European Football Assn. match between Moscow Spartak and Haarlem of the Netherlands in the 100,000-seat Lenin Stadium, the management decided to cram all the fans into one section. A double ring of police surrounded the section, and all but one staircase was locked "to save trouble to the police," the newspaper reported.

Police pushed fans toward the exit a few minutes before the end of the game to prevent a sudden jam at the nearby subway station, the newspaper said. But when the final--and only--goal was scored, some of the fans tried to return and collided with outgoing fans on stairs that had become covered with ice in snowy, 14-degree weather.

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