Vancouver riot and 5 other infamous melees in sports history

Passions are high. Crowds are big. Alcohol is consumed. That can be the toxic mix that sparks rioting at or after big sporting events – a phenomenon that can feed on itself by drawing in those who are at first bystanders, experts say. The history of fans turning rabid is a long one, with a new chapter added Wednesday night in Vancouver, where street riots erupted toward the end of pro hockey’s Stanley Cup final. No deaths were reported, but more than 100 people were injured, according to the Toronto Sun.

Here are five notable riots linked to sporting events through history.

1. Nika riot, 532

The Constantinople chariot races might not have looked exactly like 'Ben Hur,' but they led to massive riots.

More than 30,000 citizens of ancient Constantinople (now Istanbul) died in January after a chariot race in the Hippodrome between the Blues and the Greens, two of the four prominent factions in the empire. After the race, Emperor Justinian accused some faction members of murder and sentenced them to death. Citizens reacted by invading the emperor’s palace after a second chariot race in the Hippodrome, where thousands of faction members died in the five-day riot. Throughout the rioting, people yelled, "nika," Greek for victory or conquest.

Richard Ginsburg, a professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School and author of “Whose Game Is It, Anyway?” says such actions mimic primal and tribal behavior. “When your tribe gets beaten by another tribe, it can be very threatening,” he says.

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