Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Luge Tragedy

I watched some Olympics coverage yesterday afternoon, and I was struck by an odd tone in the announcers' voices when they discussed the death, less than 24 hours earlier, of Nodar Kumaritashvili, the 21-year-old luge competitor from Georgia. Picabo Street, in particular, was in a studio show and seemed to laugh off the tragedy with a "hey-fast-sports-are-dangerous" comment. So I was glad to see a piece by Jere Longman in the Times actually addressing the situation:
A thorough investigation was supposed to have been conducted. Instead, the luge federation seemed more concerned about getting the track opened again for competition on Saturday than about taking a hard look at the conditions that might have contributed to Kumaritashvili’s death.

There was at least tacit admission Saturday morning that the course was dangerous: the ice had been contoured to direct sleds toward the center of the track. A high wooden wall had been erected just beyond the curve where Kumaritashvili died after crashing into a support post.
And this:
Officials said Kumaritashvili’s death was the first luge fatality since 1975. Several sliders and officials said it could not have been foreseen. But the idea that something terrible might happen here, on the fastest course in the world, was talked about publicly and feared for a year.

Frequent concerns were expressed about excessive speeds. Even Armin Zoeggeler of Italy, a two-time Olympic champion and a favorite here, had crashed on this track. On Thursday, after struggling to maintain control of her sled, Hannah Campbell-Pegg of Australia said, “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies?”
I enjoyed watching the Games yesterday more than I thought I would (I'm normally more of a Summer guy), so I look forward to more. Let's just hope Vancouver has had its share of tragedy as host.


Blogger Barbara Carlson said...

Yeh, I'm also a very cynical about the whole hype of it, esp. living in Canada, but when I see the faces of those athletes entering the colliseum, I'm smitten all over again. They are so excited to be there, so so am I. It's infectious.

Besides, in TV land we are able to watch -- very close up, over & over -- the best of the best of the best doing that One Thing that lucky people find in life to make it all worthwhile.

But have you noticed not one female athlete (bar the figure skaters) wears coloured lipstick?

And how humble & sweet-hearted the winners are? thanking everybody for their help in the long years getting to the podium?

Or how mixed up nationalities are re their competing countries? Japanese for Netherlands, Russians for Germany, etc?

These games aren't really about countries, but about people -- showing us what they love best and sadly sometimes perishing in the attempt.

4:22 PM  

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