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Transport chaos leaves Man City fans facing long delays outside Istanbul stadium

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ISTANBUL — There were scenes akin to a post-apocalyptic Hollywood blockbuster as fans were forced to walk along the roadside past miles of cars at a standstill to reach the Ataturk Olympic Stadium as travel to the 2023 Champions League final descended into chaos.

Uefa told supporters to take official shuttle buses to the stadium from designated meeting points, but there were queues lasting up to two hours long to board one well before the 10pm local (8pm BST) kick-off time.

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The Istanbul roads were so gridlocked from the city centre to the stadium, on the outskirts, that journeys took several hours. Some fans reported being dropped off a long distance from the stadium by the official shuttles. One said they were left “on a dirt road”.

More than four hours before kick-off of Manchester City’s game against Inter Milan the single main road leading to the venue became jammed with traffic. Taxis from the city centre that would usually cost under £10 were demanding up to £130 to take people to the stadium.

Supporters had been advised not to take the metro and those who braved it experienced packed carriages with people jostling to get on already busy trains at stations.

There were strict checks on connecting trains nearer to the stadium stop with Turkish police ensuring only those with tickets were able to access the stadium. Uefa had advised ticketless fans to stay away.

There were also two layers of police checks when leaving the Olympiyat station, the stop closest to the stadium. They ensured fans had tickets and searched bags for alcohol. Around the stadium perimeter were riot police, police on horseback and officers with police dogs.

Uefa had told fans to get to the stadium four hours before kick-off but many ignored the advice, preferring to continue drinking at the city centre fan parks and city bars before setting off.

Manchester City's supporters gather at a bar terrasse at Taksim square in Istanbul ahead of the UEFA Champions League final between Inter Milan and Manchester City on June 10, 2023. (Photo by Umit Turhan Coskun / AFP) (Photo by UMIT TURHAN COSKUN/AFP via Getty Images)
Former boxing world champion Ricky Hatton (pictured centre) was among the City fans enjoying the build-up to the Champions League final in Istanbul’s Taksim square on Saturday afternoon (Photo: Getty)

Critics described the situation as “a shambles” and said Uefa had let fans down again only a year after chaos at the 2022 Champions League final when crowd control failed outside the Stade de France and an independent commission later found that a “mass fatality catastrophe” was narrowly avoided.

In the immediate aftermath, Uefa and French police tried to blame Liverpool supporters for the dangerous congestion of thousands of people, a notion that was rejected by the independent commission.

The report stated: “The panel has concluded that Uefa, as event owner, bears primary responsibility for failures which almost led to disaster.

“The dangerous conditions on the concourse outside the turnstiles were compounded by the police deploying teargas at disorderly groups of locals, as well as using pepper spray on supporters trying to gain entrance with valid tickets.

“It is remarkable that no one lost their life. All the stakeholders interviewed by the panel have agreed that this situation was a near-miss: a term used when an event almost turns into a mass fatality catastrophe.”

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