Protecting the Olympic Athletes

We sat down last night excited to watch the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  But, like most of the world, we were horrified and deeply saddened to learn of the death of 21-year old luge competitor Norad Kumaritashvili during his training run for the luge event.  The video clip of the crash was shown on NBC and is readily available through the internet.  The reason that I am prompted to write about this event is because I cannot imagine how irresponsible it seems to me that the track was designed with steel girders flanking the sides of the track.  Looking at the design, I cannot even imagine there’s a way to make the track more dangerous.  In a USA Today article, Jeff Zillgitt tells us that “The speed of the track has been an issue since it was tested in 2007. In December 2008, Fendt said the high speeds at Whistler are ‘not in the interest of our International Luge Federation and it makes me worry.’”  Strangely to me, however, the title of Zillgitt’s article is Probe: G-force, not track, cause of luger’s death at Olympics.  The point of the article is that a mistake by the luger resulted in him being unable to stay within the track.  My point here is this:  athletes will make mistakes.  The track should be designed with every caution to insure that mistakes do not result in the ultimate catastrophe.  How in good conscious could a track be designed where it is possible that the luger might leave the track and the track is surrounded by steel girders?  This seems to me to be completely ludicrous.  Further, it seems to me that a more accurate article title might be Ill-conceived steel girders cause of luger’s death at Olympics.  I am pleased that the event organizers have made changes today to try to protect the lugers in the Olympic events – all lugers will use starting points lower on the track than originally planned.  Additionally, the walls in the 16th curve have been raised and the ice profile modified to help insure that the lugers stay inside the track.  Clearly these changes are important and will hopefully insure that another tragedy does not occur in these Olympics. That being said, I hope that the authorities responsible will reevaluate the design of all luge tracks to make it impossible for a luger to leave the track and, if that is not possible, to design a secondary boundary that is more foregiving than a series of steel girders.  The safety of the athletes must be the primary consideration in the design of every venue for every event.  My heart goes out to Olympian Norad Kumaritashvili’s family and my prayers are for the safety of all of the Olympians.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Patti Pearson on February 27th, 2010

    What a great book! You really know your stuff. I can tell that you have played sports for many years. Parents, like me, who have children in sports should pick up a copy to help their child/ren gain the mental toughness they will need to be successful. Thanks!