Just a horrific crash, and one that killed Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili.
(NOTE: The IOC has since made sure the video of Kumaritashvili’s crash has been removed from YouTube and elsewhere. It’s grisly, no doubt, but it’s news, and should be allowed to be seen. The IOC is clearly trying only to protect itself.)
Photos from the crash can be seen here:
Video of the crash is here in this CBS News report:
Just yesterday, the Associated Press had a story about the difficulty of the bobsled and luge track, and then this happens. It’s a grisly crash and horrible to see, but the video raises questions that need to be answered:
Why is the wall so short around such a devastating turn? Why are the walls so short anyway?
Why are the steel poles not padded? Why are the steel poles there? Who designed that? Maybe padding wouldn’t have saved Kumaritashvili’s life, but isn’t that still a no-brainer?
Where would spectators be? Are they in harm’s way should another ride crash?
Is luge too fast now? Kumaritashvili was moving 88 mph nearing the finish line. Sports are always about getting bigger, strong and faster, but should restrictions be put on a sport in which the competitor is so exposed to danger? Isn’t just about any crash going to be devastating? And what kind of measures should be taken to insure that a course is not only world class, but safe?
A few comments about the 16-turn Whistler Sliding Track, courtesy of AP columnist Jim Litke:
It’s not as if everyone couldn’t see this coming. When the luge track opened, one of the earliest runs produced a speed of 95.65 mph — 153.937 kph — about 6 mph faster than any slider had ever recorded. “It makes me worry,” Josef Fendt, president of the International Luge Federation, told The New York Times, and he was hardly alone.
Lugers told reporters they gave the nickname “50-50” to curve 13, because they figured those were the odds they’d get through it without crashing. Curve 11 was dubbed “Shiver,” which needs no explanation. You probably couldn’t repeat what they said about the course when no one was listening.
On Thursday, after a wobbly training run, Australia’s Hannah Campbell-Pegg asked, “To what extent are we just little lemmings that they just throw down a track and we’re crash-test dummies? I mean, this is our lives.”
Later the same evening, Mark Grimmette, a five-time Olympian and the U.S. team’s flag bearer, worried that the Whistler track was threatening the boundaries of safety.
“We’re probably getting close,” he said.
NASCAR was forced to take safety matters much more seriously when Dale Earnhardt was killed in a crash. Perhaps the same is about to happen for the International Olympic Committee.
Of course, downhill skiing may be even more dangerous.