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Tiger Fans Almost Start Riot in Osaka

Friday, September 30, 2005 Posted: 05:46 PM JST [SLIDE SHOW]

Huge crowds of extatic Hanshin Tiger fans flooded the streets of Osaka last night after the team clinched the Central League pennant. The overly excited fans started battling the enormous police force that had assembled. At times it looked like a riot could start any moment.

Last time the team won, some 5,300 fans jumped from a bridge into a canal. One person died. The police had therefore cordoned off the entrance to the bridge and built high walls.

All the energy needed an outlet however. Hundreds climbed into light poles and unto signs and jumped into the crowd. One person risked breaking his neck as he made a complete spin during his jump. On Midosuji Avenue, Osaka's main thorough fare, fans assaulted passing cars and danced on the roof of at least two.

Southern Osaka saw huge crowds trying to break the police cordon around the bridge. Police was repeatedly almost overwhelmed by the surging crowd. Lots of people fell in the chaos and were trampled on. It is a miracle that the number of wounded was limited to two police officers.

After the police left, some 2,000 people returned to the bridge. Some 55 fans scaled the newly built wall and jumped into the canal. By the time morning arrived 13 people had been arrested.

Strangely enough the chaos was hardly reported on by the media. The Mainichi Daily News reported that the fans actions "did not cause major trouble". People in Tokyo were told that the celebrations were "quiet".

Being in the thick of it all, I strongly believe that the actions by the police made the situation far more dangerous than it had to be. Instead of making it impossible to jump from the bridge, authorities would be smart to make it easier and safer, as well as to make more bridges attractive for jumping so that the crowd can be spread all over Osaka. Under the bridges there should be boats with diving teams and first aid people standing by.

The young crowd has to get rid of its energy. If the police prevents them from jumping into the water, they will jump into the crowd or think up more destructive activities, like dancing on passing cars. The actions by the authorities have started a course of action that will escalate into a far more dangerous situation.

Keywords: national_news opinion_item photo_essay

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